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?


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

Sunday, December 3, 2023

New Focus - Basketball and Hockey

While there are plenty of sets who's designs I like enough to collect, I'm going to limit this to sets that I like enough to collect and actually have some.

1969-1970 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     9 of 99 cards (9.1%)
Most valuable card:            #25 - Lew Alcindor RC with a Beckett high book of $2000
Stars I already have:           Walt Frazier, Wes Unseld
What I like about it:            Funky design with a easy to read back
What I don't like about it:  Odd size requiring 6 pocket pages. That Kareem RC is the type of thing I am trying to                                                 avoid by diversifying away from baseball.  13 cards have BV greater than $100

1971-72 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     2 of 233 cards (0.8%)
Most valuable card:            #100 - Lew Alcindor with a Beckett high book of $250
Stars I already have:           Connie Hawkins
What I like about it:            Fun Design capturing the zeitgeist of the time
What I don't like about it:  Not a huge fan of all the yellow on the back, but at least it is readable

1972-73 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     226 of 264 cards (85.6%)
Most valuable card:            #195 - Julius Erving RC with a Beckett high book of $1200 (it was $300 when I started)
Stars I already have:           Julius Erving, Phil Jackson, Pete Maravich, Jerry West
What I like about it:            Simple design but still projects that early 1970s vibe
What I don't like about it:  Nothing sticks out.

1971-72 Topps Hockey

How complete:                     1 of 132 cards (0.7%)
Most valuable card:            #45 - Ken Dryden with a Beckett high book of $125
Stars I already have:           Bobby Orr
What I like about it:            Another fun Topps design in or around 1972
What I don't like about it:  Egads!  That back is ugly

What I am listening to:  Song for the Dead by Queens of the Stone Age

Sunday, November 26, 2023

New Focus- Football

Like many collectors, I have had occasion to reconsider how I collect in light of the run-up in prices that started with COVID and don't seem to have abated.  As a set collector, it is hard to work around skyrocketing prices. You just have to suck it up and pay the man.  But, my completist tendencies have a limit.  As I've said previously, I will not be building any sets prior to 1955 because of the presence of multiple grossly expensive cards. I struggle with what to do about 1963 because of the high number Pete Rose rookie card. 

But, I have now also decided to only collect sets that have a design that interests me.  So, sets like 1957, 1962, and 1967 Topps baseball are unlikely to ever get built.  Instead, I've decided to look at other sports sets that interest me. Thankfully, basketball, football, and hockey do not command the same premium prices that baseball does,  

I have in the past picked up cheap cards from the 1960s and 1970s of football stars.  So, when I was able to pick up a cheap lot of common cards from that era, I jumped at it.  Thankfully, I liked all the designs.

1968 Topps

How complete:                     51 of 219 cards (23.3%)
Most valuable card          #196 - Bob Griese with a Beckett high book of $200
Stars I already have:           Gale Sayers (obviously), Joe Namath
What I like about it:            Simple design with a visually interesting text box.
What I don't like about it:  The first series uses a light green on the back which is hard to read.                                                                           Thankully, the second series uses blue ink which is easier on the eyes.

1969 Topps

How complete:                     49 of 263 cards (18.6%)
Most valuable card:            #120 -Larry Csonka with a Beckett high book of $150
Stars I already have:           Gale Sayers , Johnny Unitas, Brian Piccolo, Bob Lilly, Don Meredtih,                                                                    Joe Namath, Fran Tarkington, Bob Griese, George Blanda
What I like about it:            Again, simple design and I am very fond of the primary color background
What I don't like about it:  The back is rather drab in comparison to the bright front

1970 Topps

How complete:                     122 of 263 cards (46.4%)
Most valuable card:            #90 -OJ Simpson RC with a Beckett high book of $250
Stars I already have:           OJ Simpson, Bart Starr, Alan Page, Gale Sayers, Fred Biletnikoff,
                                                Bob Lilly, Larry Csonka, Merlin Olsen, Alex Karras
What I like about it:            Color choices are quirky, but is an easy to read, visually interesting back
What I don't like about it:  The tan background somewhat offsets the nice silhouette design.

1973 Topps

How complete:                     529 of 554 cards (97.2%)
Most valuable card:            #89 -Franco Harris RC with a Beckett high book of $200
Stars I already have:           All except George Blanda and Fran Tarkington
What I like about it:            I had a fair number of these cards as a kid, so a nostalgic favorite
What I don't like about it:  The back is just depressingly drab and hard to read.

What I am listening to: Homecoming by Josh Ritter

Nostalgia is an odd thing.  This song always makes me think fondly of my hometown of Rochester, NY.  Yet, last night was my 40th high school reunion and I did not attend.  The distance notwithstanding, I just had no interest in going.  I pretty much floated through high school.  Good enough grades to get into college, but not better. Neither part of, nor opposed to, any particular cohort.  Just there.  I don't need to revisit that.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 35

 I really need to get my rear in gear here. Previously, I had mentioned that I had a bit of a curve thrown at me by life late last year. That situation is now coming to close.  As a celebration, I have bought another signed 1961 Fleer card to my collection. That one will be, once I receive it, the 63rd such card. So, I really need to get this party going. Hopefully, I can actually make regular entries in this series as there is a long way between 35 and 63.

Fred "Firpo" Marberry is often considered the first relief specialist.  To be sure, there were relief pitchers before Marberry's time, but it was never really a specialty.  Indeed in the 1910's, the decade before Firpo started his professional career, over 62% of the games ended in complete games.  Over the space of his major league career that level decreased but was still substantially around half of all games.

I would have researched this further, but I really didn't want to pay for more detailed access to Baseball Reference, so I tried another approach.  Using the free part of B-R, I looked at the progressive career leaders for games finished and looked to see which of the various leaders had more than half of their career appearances in relief.  Only one name stuck out: Doc Crandall.  Over a 10 year career, Crandall made 302 appearances, 168 of which were in relief.  In contrast, Marberry made 365 relief appearances in the 551 games he appeared in.

Here are some random facts about Marberry (mostly stolen) from his SABR biography:

  1. A big man, Marberry stormed around, throwing and kicking dirt, glaring angrily at the batter. He and catcher Muddy Ruel would put on an act during warm ups intended to psych out opposing batteers.He was Al Hrabosky a couple decades before Al Hrabosky was even born.
  2. Marberry acquired the nickname Firpo because of his size and facial resemblance to Argentine boxer Luis Firpo. 
  3. At the time, games at Griffith Stadium typically started at 4:00. In the faster-paced games of the time, this meant that “Marberry Time,” as it was soon called, would arrive at about 5:30 or 6:00, with the shadows rolling across the diamond. For a fastball pitcher like Marberry, this was an ideal environment.
  4. He had a short stint as an American League umpire in 1935, but found the job too lonely.
  5. Even after his major league career was over at the age of 37 in 1936, he continued pitching in the minors, mostly the Texas League, for 5 more seasons.
  6. He owned a 600-acre farm near Marberry ‘s boyhood home in Mexia and, at various times, he operated a wholesale gas distributorship and ran a recreation center in Waco.

What I am listening to: Honeysuckle Blue by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit