Monday, May 18, 2020

The Oddest of Oddballs

Life's big questions.

Collecting trading cards would seem to be a simple, easy to understand hobby.  When I first got into it, back in late 2010, with my Paul Blair player collection, I certainly would have thought so. I did not know of such things as relic cards, sticker autos, short prints and serialized cards. I was quite the naïf.  In the near decade since, my collecting has taken me in multiple directions: set building, set building for sports I don't even follow, autographed cards, even non-sport tobacco cards.  

But, still at the center is that Paul Blair player collection.  It has been somewhat stagnant these last few years, but occasionally something gets added.  In my COVID19 quarantine, I have spent more time at Net54Baseball and came across a long thread of Orioles and Brooks Robinson collectors and caught a glimpse of some Blair memorabilia. I introduced myself and one thing led to another and a trade deal was closed.   In exchange for one of my 1993 Nabisco Blair cards, I got a handful of team issued Paul Blair postcards (which are still in transit) and this:

I didn't get the 1976 Topps card in the trade, I only included it here to give a sense of the size of the item above it.    What is it, you are probably asking?  It is a 1976 English's Chicken lid.  You are probably wondering if that is really a lid to a bucket of chicken?  If you are, you would be correct. 

My God! What have I done?

If you had told me in 2010 that I would have added a lid to a cardboard bucket of fried chicken to my collection I would have thought you were crazy. But, here we are.  I have a 44 year old chicken bucket lid and I am excited beyond belief.  I have occasionally searched for one of these; always unsuccessfully.  To have it fall into my lap like this is a nice bit of serendipity.  I thought I might explain about English's, but I found out that the late, great, Bob Lemke had beat me to the punch. You can read his blog post here.  And the collector he got his information from?  The same person I traded with!  Small world.

Hopefully, the post cards will be here by the weekend, so I can show them off.

What I am listening to: A Tout Le Monde by Megadeth (yes, I probably should have posted "Once in a Lifetime," but I am in the middle of a thrash metal phase, so you get this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

New Blair Additions

I'm still mostly on the sidelines waiting for COVID-19 to abate and the oil & gas industry to pull out of it's tailspin. But, I did manage to add a couple new things to my Paul Blair player collection.

As you can see this is the O-Pee-Chee version of his 1968 card.  With this, I have ten of the eleven OPC Blair cards. The only one I lack now is card number 153 from 1967, which is the World Series Game #3 card - Blair's Homer Defeats L.A.   There is another such card he appears on, 1971 Topps/OPC #195, the AL playoffs game 1 card. However, while he appears on the card, he is not the subject, which is Boog Powell. Blair is just congratulating Powell after he hit a home run. So, I'm not going to consider that part of the PC.

This is a team issued photo from 1975.  I know have 4 team issued photo cards.  In addition to this one, I believe I have 1969, 1971, and 1973.  There isn't a lot of good resources out there for these types of issues, but there are a number of Orioles team collectors on net54. I'm hoping they can help me know definitively which years they are.

Added in edit: I am told by a long time Orioles collector that the photo was actually issued by the team in 1973-1974.

What I am listening to:  Rock Me Baby by B.B. King, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks

Monday, May 4, 2020

1970 Card Back Follies, Part 2

Okay, I really need to get back to this.  I laid out the skeleton of this post about two weeks ago, but have been putting off doin the research and write-up.  So, without much further ado, here is part 2 of my examination of random, interesting card back cartoons from 1970 Topps.

David Nelson (#112) - Dave's hobby is saving clippings of his favorite athletes

I really didn't find much else about this other than Nelson was born at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (about an hour and a half drive from my home here) and his favorite athletes growing up were Oscar Robertson and Jackie Robinson.

Sparky Lyle (#116) - Sparky once struck out 31 men in a 17 inning game

This feat was accomplished in American Legion ball in his hometown of DuBois, PA and it was the thing that caught the attention of a major league scout, George Staller of the Baltimore Orioles, who signed him to a contract. It should be noted that Sparky only pitched in 14 of those 17 innings and manned frist base the other three,  There wasn't much primary source information I could find.  The local newspaper, The Courier Express, is indexed at, but there is a complete gap in the records between 1946 and 1969. By 1969, he was on his third major leagues season with the Red Sox.

Joe Coleman (#127) - Joe has particular success vs. the White Sox

This was a hard one. Not because of a lack of information, but because of too much information. I had a hard time deciding how to test this one. It is probably the sole reason that it has been over two weeks since my previous post on this topic. Finally, I just had to fish or cut bait.  I have a good idea why this was the cartoon caption.  Prior to 1970, Coleman had a 3-1 record in in 8 starts and one relief appearance against the White Sox, with all three wins being complete games.  However, that is where it breaks down.

So, I downloaded his entire career from Baseball Reference and did some analysis of his pre-1970 statistics.  Using the traditional pitching statistic of ERA, I calculated Coleman's results for each team and overall, then sorted.
So, you can see that Coleman's ERA is particularly poor against Chicago; worse even than his overall performance.  Now, I know that ERA can be affected by factors outside the players control, so I thought I would look at the modern Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).  However, FIP is adjusted by a yearly league factor and I quickly decided I didn't want to put *that* much effort into this, so I backed off to using WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched.)

As you can see, Coleman was better against the White Sox than his overall average against the league. However, it was only marginally better than average and certainly worse than his performance against a number of other teams.  So, my last effort to understand this was to look at Win Percentage Added (WPA.) I understand WPA conceptually, though I don't know how it is calculated.  In general it looks at an individual players contribution to a game.  A positive number means they contributed towards a win (even though the game result may not have been a win.)A negative number means they were a negative influence on the game outcome. In order to control for the fact that the amount of playing time versus each team. I looked at average WPA per appearance.

So, my impression is that, overall, Coleman was a neutral contributor to the Senators.  Interestingly, based on this metric, he wasn't particularly successful against the White Sox. In fact, it was probably more accurate to say (accounting for all three above metrics) that he has particular success against the Angels, Athletics, and Tigers.

Richie Scheinblum (#161) - Richie's 1st homer in pro ball was a grand slam in the 13th inning

Scheinblum first pro homerun was with the Burlington Indians of the A level Carolina League in 1964.  The homerun referenced was in a game on June 14 against the Greensboro Yankees. It was hit off of pitcher Joe Riccardo.  Riccardo never made it out of A ball, with the 1965 season being his last.

What I am Listening to:  Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn