Saturday, April 13, 2024

1960 Fleer Autograph Project - Parts 16 and 17

Two updates in one post?  What is up with that? Am I trying to make up for being such an infrequent poster that doubling up is the only way I'll make an appreciable progress?  

No.

I am particularly excited about my 17th signed 1960 Fleer card and, as luck would have it, I have already posted about the subject of the 16th card, albeit in my series of posts about the 1961 set. See?





If you missed my post about my signed 1961 Fleer card of Warren Giles, you can find it here.

So, let's get on to number 17.

I've mostly been focusing on signed 1961 cards, but progress has slowed of late.  Recently, a large group of signed 1960 Fleer cards came up for auction on EBay.  There were plenty of really rare cards in the group; cards that I have never seen before and likely will never see again.  The cards were auctioned off over two nights.  

The first night contained a number of cards that were rare, but do come up on EBay 2 or 3 times a year.  I wasn't going to bid on them just because I will have other chances.  The first group also contained impossibly rare cards of Mickey Cochrane and Frank "Home Run" Baker.  I knew I would never be able to afford them, so I decided to sit on my wallet and focus on the second set a few nights later.  It was the right choice.  The Cochrane sold for $743 and the Baker for an eye-popping $2,431.  Even the more available cards sold for a premium.  Last year, I got a signed 1961 Heinie Manush for $175. The 1960 in this auction went for $281.  A Lefty Grove went for $338 where, in contrast, I got my 1961 Grove for $43.  Just crazy.

The second grouping was similarly divided between cards that come up infrequently and cards that only have come in this auction.  It included Branch Rickey and Bobo Newsom (who died in 1962)  I decided to focus on two cards that were really rare, but still within my budget.   Since the auctions weren't staggered, but closed all at the exact same time, I had to have my bids in on both concurrently. Given the strong prices I decided to bid on both to increase my chances of landing one. Frankly, I was scared that I would win both, but was honestly expecting to get neither, given the strong prices the first night.  I did manage to win one, so let's take a look.

Friday, February 16, 2024

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 41

It has been a rough few weeks here.  My senior Great Pyrenees had to be euthanized.  He had been undergoing treatment for cancer since before Christmas, but it was ineffective.  His health took a turn for the worse and we made the choice to end his suffering. On top of that, I have had cascading plumbing issues associated with my barn mostly due to the half-assed work prior owners did. Some repairs I did myself, but others required more specialized skills.  I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say I am about done with country living and wouldn't mine moving back into town where I don't have to deal with fixing someone else's work. I've lived here 20 years. You would think I would have found it all by now.

Not a lot of hobby activity, although I did manage to get 3 of the remaining 4 cards I needed to complete my 1958 set.  The only remaining card is #310 - Ernie Banks.  The card is of sufficient cost that I probably will hold off on chasing after it until my life and checkbook return to something resembling normalcy.

Anyways, onward. Here we have Roger Peckinpaugh, another noteworthy, but not all time great, player.  He was something the opposite of our previous subject, Riggs Stephenson.  Where Stephenson was a good bat attached to a weak fielder, Peckingpaugh was considered one of the best shortstops in the Dead Ball Era, while generally packing a below average offensive punch at the plate.


Some interesting facts about Peckinpaugh:

  1. He was the youngest manager ever in MLB history when he took over the New York Yankees on an interim basis for the last 20 games of the 1914 season. He was 23 years old.
  2. Born and raised in Ohio, he started his major league career with Cleveland when the team was known as the Naps.
  3. In a case of be careful what you ask for, he was traded from the Yankees to the Washington Senators after the 1921 season when Babe Ruth, while complaining about skipper Miller Huggins, suggested Peck would be a better choice for manager.
  4. While with the Washington Senators, he was part of a formidable double play combo with player-manager Bucky Harris and acted as an unofficial assistant manager.  They won the World Series in 1924 and the AL pennant the following year.
  5. Despite what amounted to league average hitting, Peck's fielding and leadership led to him being the 1925 AL MVP.  When sorted by the modern WAR metric, he would have been in 20th place among all the players recieving MVP votes that year.
  6. He returned to Cleveland as a manager twice. First from 1928 through the first 51 games of the 1933 season and again for the 1941 season. He was succeeded in 1942 by 24 year old player manager Lou Boudreau, who I've featured here previously.
  7. After leaving baseball, he became a manufacturer's rep for Cleveland Oak Belting. a company that appears to still be in business. One of their current product lines is conveyor idlers, a component that my employer uses in their quarries.

What I am listening to but probably shouldn't: Maggie's Song by Chris Stapleton





Sunday, January 28, 2024

How Did That Work Out For You?

  Do you ever just feel like the hobby gods are trying to send you a message? 

I have mentioned a couple things here recently.  First, I am not particularly fond of 1967 Topps.  It is just a bland, uninspired set both front and back.  Second, a while back I bought a lot of collector grade 1966 and 1967 cards with the intent of getting a jump start on my '66 set build. But, I ended up with only 20% of the '66 set and over a third of '67.

Moving on to yesterday, the local OKC show was actually held at the county fairgrounds here in Norman.  A 10 minute drive instead of 45 minutes.  I was a little skeptical as it was held in the same building that hosts livestock shows, which means there is a dirt arena right smack in the middle.  But, it ended up okay.  The show was well attended by sellers and the aisles were nice and wide.  Other than it being a little cold in the building I couldn't ask for more.

My intent was to look for 1966 commons, find the last 3 cards I need for my 1973 football set and some of the last 5 cards I need for my 1958 baseball set.  I failed on all three counts. However, my normal go-to vintage dealer had a 5000 count box of...you guessed it... 1967 Topps.  So, I started going through and found a significant number of cards I needed.  The seller cut me a good deal and I was on my way home. 

In the end, I found nearly 160 cards and I am now sitting at 62% complete on the set.  So, am I working the set?  I guess so.  But, there are challenges ahead.  I have none of the major star cards outside Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and well-loved Whitey Ford and Roger Maris cards.  I also have exactly zero high number cards and only 26 of the 76 semi-high numbers.  

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to look a bit at statistics for the set and where I am in terms of completion.  There are 609 cards in the set and when I looked it last their total Beckett high book value added up to $8,477.00.  That works out to $13.92 per card.  My progress is 379 cards with book value of $1,856 or $4.90 per card.  Math tells me I have 230 cards to go with a average book value of $28.78.  Ugh. So, while I guess I am working the set, my level of ambivalence hasn't changed any.

Anyways, whining isn't the sole reason for this post.  When I am at a show, I generally look for card numbers on my want list, check condition, and either set aside or put back.  For some reason, I took a look at the back of the Ed Brinkman card.


Obviously, 57 years later we know that Ed never developed into one of the American League's big stars.  He never hit consistently well, but did manage to stay in the starting lineup for 11 years out of 15 he played in the majors.  He is considered one of the finest fielding shortstops of his era, but only won 1 Gold Glove in his career because he was playing at the same time as one of the finest fielding shortstops in all of baseball history, Mark Belanger.

In a sad similarity, both Belanger and Brinkman died young (54 and 66 respectively) due to lung cancer.

What I am listening to: The Flood by Charles Wesley Godwin




Saturday, January 13, 2024

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 40

Before we get started, can we just acknowledge the utter lack of visual appeal in this card?  The crude signature combined with the extreme diamond cut of the card makes it one of the less attractive cards in this project.  Yowza.

I've mentioned before that the 1960 and 1961 Fleer sets engage in a bit of mis-advertising.  They are called Baseball Greats, but there are a fair number of subject players that, while noteworthy, are not necessarily great.  Riggs Stephenson here is a good example. A solid hitter, his defensive deficiencies along with a history of injuries meant that he was only was a starting player for 4 seasons in a 14 year career.  Interestingly, he received MVP votes in 3 of those 4 seasons. This included coming in 5th place in the 1932 race behind winner Chuck Klein, but ahead of such notables as Mel Ott and Pie Traynor.

Some interesting facts about Stephenson

  1. His major league career ended in 1934, but he continued to play in the minor leagues through 1939.  This included a 1936 stint as player-manager for the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association.  That year, he was the offensive leader of the team, hitting .355 while leading the team to the league championship.
  2. He was a three sport standout at the University of Alabama, earning 3 varsity letters each in football and baseball, and 1 in basketball. His football coach at 'Bama described Riggs as “better football player than Jim Thorpe."
  3. While at Alabama one of his baseball teammates was future Hall of Famer Joe Sewell.
  4. He appeared in both the 1929 and 1932  World Series for the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubbies lost both series through no fault of Stephenson who hit .316 and .444 respectively in the two series.
  5. After his baseball career ended, he returned home to Alabama to farm and run various successful business ventures.

What I am listening to:: Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty by Herbie Mann





Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year's Review

Today is the last day of 2023 and I suppose it is time for reflection on the year and to make some promises to myself for 2024. Logically, there is nothing magical about January 1 with regards to self-assessment and new resolutions.  But, I live a fairly busy life and having a lot of down time at the end of December does give the opportunity to look back...and then forward.  I won't bother you with the personal, though it was generally a better year for me after two lousy years in '21 and '22.  I will stick to the hobby stuff that you are here for:

Overall, 2023 was a good year hobby wise if a bit scattered. I managed to complete two sets during the year:

  • 1955 - I started building this set in earnest in 2013, so this was 10 years in the making.  As I reported earlier, the last card I needed was a common, Gale Wade. The second to last card was Jackie Robinson. 


  • 1969 - I wasn't planning to finish this set in 2023, but I discovered that my bank has rewards program for debit card use and I was able to convert over a years worth of points into a nice pre-paid VISA card.  The last card was Al Downing.

So, the other highlights of 2023 were:

  • Fleer Autograph project - I started the year with 15 signed cards from 1960 and 62 from 1961. I will close out the year with 16 and 70.
  • Started both 1966 and 1967 Topps baseball - I haven't mentioned it here, but I bought a large stack of 1966 and 1967 baseball commons in low to mid-grade for about $0.02 a card. I am planning on working on 1966, but after I sorted through the stack and separated out the cards in G condition or better, I found that I had about 20% of the 1966 set and 35% of 1967. know I said I would probably never build 1967 as the design doesn't interest me, but 35% is pretty far along. So, I may need to hold my nose and build the set. Hopefully, the high numbers are affordable in G to VG condition.
  • Added a few cards to my Paul Blair and Johnny Antonelli collections.  The only one I was actually excited about was a 1960 Topps Venezuelan card of Antonelli that I got dirt cheap.

What does 2024 portend? I have 5 sets I would like to complete:

  • 1958 Baseball - with only 25 cards to go, I am going to prioritize getting this one done.  Having started in 2012 when I bought the Mantle, 12 years is long enough.



  • 1972-73 Basketball - I started this set in 2018 and have 33 cards to completion.



  • 1973 Football - I started this set in January of 2020 and have 24 to go towards completion.



  • 1974 Topps Baseball - Wait, what?  I've said that I've completed the entire Topps run between 1968 and 1979, so what gives?  What gives is that I need one card (599 - San Diego Small Print) to finish the master set.  I rarely see that card for less than $30-$40, which seems excessive for what is essentially a common.  But, I am close enough to completing the master set that I just need to hold my nose and get one.



  • 2009 Tristar Obak - I started the three Obak sets in 2011.  I finished 2010 and 2011 long ago and only need 7 short prints short of finishing 2009.  They don't come available all that often and when they do, the prices are generally unreasonable.  So, I probably should just be happy to make progress.



Beyond that, I will just let the hobby tide carry me and look back in a year to see what else happened.  Though, I would like to post more of my signed 1961 Fleer cards.  The last I posted was 39 and I have 70, so 31 to go.  I won't get through all of them, but one a month seems doable.

Happy New Year to you.  May your 2024 be your best year yet.

What I am listening to:  Auld Lang Syne by The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin





Sunday, December 24, 2023

To The Stars

I hope you are all well this holiday season. Other than been fighting a case of bronchitis for almost a month now, I am great and grateful. Last Christmas wasn't particularly happy for me, but I have much to be thankful for this year and I hope 2023 was good to you also.

I don't believe I have mentioned this before, but I love Star Trek. I have watched all the live acted series all the way through, some more than once.  While the current Strange New Worlds is wonderful, my favorite series is Deep Space Nine.  I like it for several reasons. First because there are multi-season story arcs.  Not just end of season cliff hangers that are resolved in the next season.  But real, substantive storylines that carry through the entire run off the show. Second, it is grittier than most other Trek series. While most Star Trek ships and stations are antiseptically clean, the DS9 space station isn't. It has a nice patina of wear and is generally gives the impression of being held together with spit and bailing wire. But, that grit has a second, deeper level.  Most Trek is built on a firm ethical foundation to the extent that it can often come across as preachy. DS9 didn't shy away from moral ambiguity.  I appreciate that as a more realistic portrayal of human complexity.  So, while I have watched the entirety of most Trek series once, I have seen DS9 all the way through 3 times and am about to start my fourth trip.

Anyways, with that as prologue, I just got back from a trip to Ohio with my wife to visit our families for the holidays. While there we visited a Star Trek store in Sandusky. While there, I bought a Morn action figure (my favorite DS9 character) and a reasonably priced hobby box of DS9: Memories From the Future.


This card represents my favorite DS9 episode ("The Visitor") and, honestly, my favorite episode of any TV series ever.  It is a compelling story even for non-science fiction fans and features an outstanding performance by actor Tony Todd as the adult Jake Sisko.  Watch this scene to see what I mean.

Anyways, the box contained 36 nine card packs through which I needed to complete a 100 card base set. The base set highlights 99 different episodes with one checklist card. The front includes a picture from the episode and a phrase to summarize a key aspect.    The back includes a summary of the episode and a quote from it next to a washed out cropped part of the front picture. How did I do?  Not great. I only got 94 of the 100 cards.  With 324 cards inside the box, I should have been able to finish at least one, if not two, complete base set. Pretty lousy collation, right?

Well....



This card is part of the 9 card Greatest Alien Races insert set that was in 1 of 4 packs. I managed to get exactly 9 of these out of the 36 packs and, get this, I got the entire insert set with no duplication. 



This card is from the 9 card Greatest Legends insert set that features various main characters. It had 1:6 odds per pack. I got exactly 6 with, again, no duplication, I chose O'Brien because I am an engineer. Well, I was for the first 5 years of my professional career.  I have been in various management roles ever since.  But, if you ask my wife, I still act like an engineer.  To be clear, she doesn't intend that to be complementary.




This card is from the 9 card Greatest Space Battles insert set and had 1:12 odds. I got exactly 3 with no duplication. I realize that front is pretty dark, but I chose it because it features the character Enabran Tain, who was the head of the Cardassian Obsidian order and father to Garak. He was played by the wonderful actor Paul Dooley who has had a long and successful Hollywood career, including voicing Sarge in the Cars movies and several turns in Christopher Guest mockumentaries and is still (minimally) active at the age of 95.



This is the box guaranteed autograph hit (1:36 packs) and features actor Aron Eisenberg who played the character Nog who had one of the more compelling character arcs in the series. Eisenberg was born with health issues and died 4 years ago at only 50 years of age. There are a total of 20 different autographed cards and I would like to build that set, but a quick look at  EBay shows that there aren't that many listed and the prices are ridiculous.  So, I may just pick up a few here and there. I would like the Odo (RenĂ© Auberjonois) and Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) cards because both were such wonderful actors. In fact, I think Fletcher's Winn is one of the all-time great TV villains in any genre.

So, that is it. I intend to finish this up set and all the inserts (except the autographs) and probably will also see about starting other DS9 sets since there are a few others.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and I'll see you on the other side.

What I Am Listening To: Them Shoes by Patrick Sweany




Sunday, December 10, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 39

I created the skeleton of this post on September 24th and it has been staring at me ever since. I want to get this knocked off before the holidays start to ramp up.  As it is, I have not added any more signed Fleer cards to my collection since Jimmie Foxx. Not surprising, of course, as I knew I was looking at reduced activity after splashing out for the Foxx.  I've picked up a few things here and there, but nothing noteworthy.

So, here is the 39th card in my signed 1961 Fleer project:


Johnny Vander Meer was a fireballer known for wildness rather than racking up strikeouts.  In fact, over the course of a 13-year major league career, he averaged 4.8 walks against 5.5 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.  His win-loss record was similarly balanced at 119-121.  Vander Meer's main claim to notoriety is he is the only person in the history of major league baseball to throw back-to-back no-hitters, a feat he accomplished in June of 1938.   The first no-hitter, pitched on the 11th, was against the anemic hitting Boston Bees.  In his next outing, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw him strike out 7 while issuing no less than 8 free passes to first base.

A few other interesting facts:

  1. His major league career was effectively over after 1950, with him pitching only 3 ineffective innings for Cleveland in 1951.  He did however continue pitching in the minor leagues through 1955.
  2. From 1953 through 1962, he managed in the Cincinnati minor league system.  During his stint as a manager, he led such notable players as Pete Rose, Jim Wynn, and Lee May.
  3. After leaving baseball behind, he worked for the Schlitz Brewing Company for 15 years.
  4. He was buried with a baseball in his left hand. 


What I am listening to:  Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple