Sunday, September 24, 2023


 I have a bit of a dilemma.

I saw this card on eBay and bought it. It is a 2001 Topps Archive reprint of card 202 from the 1970 Topps set commemorating the Baltimore Orioles win in the AL Championship Series and is signed by Paul Blair. Blair is obviously the key featured player on the card and, if it was a thing back then, would have probably been the series MVP (the first championship series MVP was awarded in 1980.) But, he is not named on the card, except as a line on the series box score and this card doesn't appear on the lists of Paul Blair cards.

So, player collectors out there, is this a Paul Blair card or not?  If it is, I guess I will need to get the original Topps and OPC versions for the Blair binder.

What I am listening to: New York Comeback by Lucinda Williams (with Bruce Springsteen)

Sunday, August 27, 2023

New Player Collection Additions

 As I mentioned in my previous post, my hobby activity has basically gone on hiatus for a while. I have added three cards to my player collections.

I have always been ambivalent about buybacks. While I don't necessarily consider them a defaced vintage card, I do consider them little different than the pre-stamped vintage original.  But, my Paul Blair player collection has stalled with only a few additions each year.  Certainly, so few I can count them on one hand. Currently, I sit at 159 unique cards in my Blair collection out of 211 on my list, for a respectable 75%.  The problem is what I lack.  

Of the 52 cards I need, most are cards that I have little interest in:7 more vintage buybacks, 13 unlicensed cut autos (mostly Tristar), 10 low-pop serial numbered cards from 2004 UD Timeless Teams, 4 printing plates, and three uncut panels for cards I otherwise have.  See what I mean?  I am too much of a completist to just throw up my hands and consider this done, but further progress means picking up cards I would otherwise ignore.  I am not sure whether it is a blessing or a curse, but most of those remaining cards are valued too highly by their current owner and are priced well beyond what I will pay.  An unlicensed cut auto card for $40.  No way.  But these two were cheap enough with both being around $10 delivered.

Anyways, this is what I am most excited about:

I realize that may look like a well-loved 1960 Topps card of Johnny Antonelli.  And, it is.  But, what isn't obvious from the image is that it is on thinner, poorer quality stock which identifies this as a Topps Venezuelan.  In well over a decade of collecting, this is only the second 1960 Venezuelan card of Antonelli I have ever seen.  And I got it for about $15 delivered.

With regard to progress, I have 71 unique Antonelli items out of my identified population of 100. The remaining items I don't have are mostly photocards/postcards, buybacks, and a handful of reprints. I've never seen most of them, so this may be one of the last cards I acquire for this collection. 

What I am listening to: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence.


Sunday, August 6, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 38

Now back to your (ir)regularly scheduled programming:  the real Part 38 in this series.

A little over a week ago, Night Owl had a post that referenced cards that featured Comissioner Bowie Kuhn and mentioned how rare it is that any card features MLB commissioners. And guess what card was next up in this post series?

Warren Giles!  Night Owl mentioned a Beckett article that he just finished about commissioner cards.  Alas, I don't read Beckett and when I do read I apparently have comprehension issues as you will see in the comment from NO below.  I've already got books that have been on the nightstand for over year untouched and I always feel a twinge of guilt when I climb into bed and see them sitting there waiting for me.  So, I have no idea whether he mentioned 1960 and 1961 Fleer in that article. Hopefully, he will confirm or deny in the comments {stares in cardboard appreciation.}

Strictly speaking, Giles was never commissioner. Rather he was the NL President from 1951 through 1969. His tenure mostly overlapped with Ford Frick occupying the MLB Commissioners office. Frick will appear in Part 53 of this series, assuming I get there before I shuffle of this mortal coil. In case you are wondering, the AL Commissioner during this time, former HOF player and manager Joe Cronin, does not appear in the set in any form.  Anyways, let's learn a little bit more about Warren.

The last two years of my life have been dominated by career issues and have involved two separate job searches.  One interview question I hate is "Where do you see yourself in five years?"   If you were to parachute into any time during my 35-year post college work life and ask me that question, then drop back in 5 years later, you would find that not only was I not where my 5-year plan said I would be, I was nowhere close.  That is a tortured, and all too long, set-up for how Warren Giles kicked off his baseball career.

After serving as an army officer in France during the First World War, Giles returned to his home in Moline, IL to work as a tradesman with his father, a general contractor. He was involved in running a local football team which led to being invited to a meeting regarding how to save the locally owned minor league team, the Moline Plowboys.  In a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished, speaking out at the meeting led Giles to be appointed to the unpaid position as President of the team.

Ater turning around the Moline club, his career as a baseball executive took off with 4 subsequent stops before assuming his post as NL President:

1922 - 1924 -St Joseph (MO) Saints
1925 -1927 - Syracuse (NY) Stars
1928 - 1936 - Rochester (NY) Red Wings
1938 - 1951 Cincinnati (OH) Red Legs

During his tenure as NL President, he was considered an effective representative of ownership and, thus, not necessarily friendly to a nascent labor movement in organized baseball. However, he had a decent working relationship with the umpires, likely due to his time as a basketball and football referee early in his career. Indeed, the NL umpires unionized during Gile's tenure. He also presided over a period of team moves, including both the Giants and Dodgers moving west, while the Braves vacated Milwaukee for warmer climes.

I could go on, but you would better served reading his SABR biography. I will share one interesting anecdote about Giles, who's s advocacy for ownership was tainted with accusations of undue deference specifically to the Dodger's Walter O'Malley. In 1963, Giles promulgated a directive strictly enforce the balk rule that said a pitcher must stop his windup for one full second while pitching from the stretch.  Why does this show favoritism towards O'Malley?  Well, the rule worked to the advantage of a baserunning oriented team and theprevious season, the Dodgers young phenom Maury Wills won the MVP while stealing 104 bases, the most since Billy Hamilton swiped 111 in 1891.

What I am listening to: Worn Out American Dream by BettySoo

Friday, July 21, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project Part 38 70

It arrived and I am beyond excited.

Because I am a big jerk, I am going to put my white whale after a jump break. In the mean time, here is a picture of a white whale.

Let's run down the 1961 Fleer set a bit, if for no other reason than to prolong the reveal.  Though there is nothing stopping you from skipping ahead.  

The 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats set was actually issued in 1961 and 1962,  The first series, consisting of cards 1 through 88, was issued in 1961 and, to state the obvious, the second series of cards 89 through 154 in the latter year.  While cards 1 and 89 were checklists they did feature players on the front and I have seen autographed versions of each card, however I don't have either.  All of the subject players were retired, though Ted Williams had just retired at the end of the 1960 season.  Many of the players had died before the set was issued, but there were 99 players that were alive on January 1, 1961.  Three died during the year: Schoolboy Rowe on January 8, Dazzy Vance on February 16, and Ty Cobb on July 17. It is safe to say that it is improbable that there are signed versions of the first two and I consider it unlikely there is a Cobb. I've certainly never seen one. So, we're down to a total of 96 cards that could theoretically exist in signed form.  

In my previous post, I defined white whales as the cards that were of truly great players who died shortly after the set was issued.  I said there was four, but when I relook at it, there are only three:

Rogers Hornsby (d. 1963)
Paul Waner (d. 1965)
Jimmie Foxx (d.1967)

So, now you know the options.  Let's cut to the chase.

Monday, July 17, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 37

I am really excited.  I just won an auction for what will be my 70th signed 1961 Fleer card.  And it is one of four cards that I would consider the white whales of the project: cards of all-time great players who lived only for a short time after the set was issued.  I will probably skip over Parts 38 through 69 and post that card next.  At the rate I am posting these, it would probably be 2030 before I got to #70 otherwise. Oh, I'll loop back and start again at 38. There are some good ones in there, but #70 just can't wait its turn.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Isn't this set called Baseball Greats?  Why do you only consider 4 cards to be white whales? I'm glad you asked. You see, much like the Greats of the Game sets that Fleer issued between 2001 and 2006, only some of the subject players were truly great.  All were notable, to be sure. But, notable is not the same as great.  Let me give you an example: Ray Mueller

Ray Mueller was a baseball lifer.  Starting in 1932 with the Harrisburg Senators of the New York -Penn League, it spanned over 40 years ending in 1973 as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. His career included turns as a minor league player-manager and major league coach and scout.  He was a teammate of Babe Ruth for the 1935 Boston Braves and coached Willie Mays with the 1956 NY Giants.  Notable, but his time in the majors was mainly as a backup catcher.  He only played more than 100 games in a major league season twice, as the starting backstop for the Cincinnati Redlegs.

Anyways, here are few interesting tidbits abour Mueller.

  1. In 1944 he was an All-Star and received two first-place votes for NL MVP. 
  2. On July 21, he hit a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning of a 5-1 win over the Cardinals. On his trip around the diamond, he passed his cousin Don Gutteridge, who was manning third base for St. Louis.
  3. During Mueller’s time with Boston, he was friends with Donald Davidson, who stood just 4’0”. Mueller helped him become the team bat boy, which he parlayed into a role with the team’s publicity department. When the franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1953, Davidson became the public relations director. Davidson is credited with giving Henry Aaron the nickname “Hammerin’ Hank.”  Davidson was another baseball lifer, though never as a player.
That's all for now. Keep your eyes out for that next post.  I'm so stinking excited.

What I am listening to: Smooth Sailin' by Leon Bridges

Friday, June 23, 2023

Another One Bites the Dust

 I am the worst.  

I have this blog. I have an interesting collecting project. One that gives me the opportunity to research baseball players that have been mostly lost to time and I can't even manage one dang post a month.  I intend to correct that.

Just not now and not with this post.

This will be a throwaway post.  So, let's get to it so we can just put it behind us.

This, my friends, is the last card I needed to complete my 1955 Topps set. It will be oldest set I will build. The second to last card I needed was Jackie Robinson.  Why am I not showing that off? is kinda ugly and it is already in the binder.  So, chalk it up to laziness.  

Anyways, about every set older than this has at least one card that is ungodly expensive and I am just not about that.  If I am going to splash out, it isn't going to be on a set build. Frankly,  I am still undecided about whether I should have opened my wallet wide enough to get that Clemente rookie card for this set. Don't get me wrong. I love that card. But, I still think about the opportunity cost.

Anyways, I'm done with 1955 Topps.

What I am listening to: "Loan Me a Dime" by Boz Scaggs

NB: The original studio version of this song featured Duane Allman on guitar, but I am partial to live versions.  There are several youtube videos with the original version.  Go listen to them.

NB2: I am guessing only two of my readers will immediately get "NB"

Sunday, May 7, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 36

I keep saying I need to get more active here and I never do. I just received my 65th signed 1961 Fleer card and I am working with a friend on a deal to add three more to that total.  At a minimum, I need to be posting faster than I am acquiring them. Surely, I can manage that? The answer is yes because I expect this project will grind to a virtual halt as I am getting down to the very rare or very expensive cards yet to go. Okay, next up in the signed 1961 Fleer project is Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau.

Boudreau was certainly one of the better players in the 1940s.  But what made him special is that for 8 of those years he was also the manager of the Cleveland Indians.  He became a player manager in 1942 at the tender age of 24 and continued through the 1950 season, when he was released by the Indians and signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox. He is listed as a player-manager for the Bosox in 1952, but only appeared in 4 mid season games as a pinch hitter, so it is something of a questionable designation,

That said, I was curious how he stacked up against other player-managers.  Through the course of MLB history (note: Negro League baseball wasn't accounted for in the list, although there were undoubtedly numerous examples) there have been 222 player managers. Most, (170)   were in the deadball era, with another 32 in the time between the world wars.  There were only 20 player managers in the post war era and most of them only appeared as such in a single season.  Only Phil Cavarretta and Pete Rose acted as player managers for more than two seasons in the post-war era. So, it is probably fair to say that Lou was the last of a dying breed

His roles as a star player and team manager peaked in 1948 when he was the runaway winner of the AL MVP and led his Indians team to the 1948 World Series where they prevailed in 6 games over the Boston Braves.

Other fun facts about Lou Boudreau:

  • He isn't so much credited with inventing the infield shift as he was of bringing it to more popular attention.  He did this on July 14, 1946 against Ted Williams during the second game of a doubleheader.  Williams laughed when Cleveland deployed the shift, but then promptly grounded out to none other than Lou Boudreau.
  • Despite not ever being confused as a speed demon (one of his nicknames was "Old Shufflefoot," he was an excellent fielding shortstop.
  • In 1990, the Cleveland Indians established The Lou Boudreau Award, which is given every year to the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.
  • Boudreau is only one of three Illinois Fighting Illini athletes to have their number retired; the other two athletes being Illinois Fighting Illini football players Red Grange and Dick Butkus.
  • He was Denny McClain's father-in-law.

What I am listening to:  El Dorado by Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway