Saturday, November 22, 2014

November Pain

"Nothin' lasts forever and we both know hearts can change" ~ Guns N' Roses' November Rain

I had to go into the office for about forty minutes this morning to finish something that should have been completed last week, and as I was driving back home, for some strange reason, the title of this post popped into my head. Where it came from, I have no idea (I could understand if the Guns N' Roses song was on the radio), but I thought it would be fitting for those of my Braves brethren who are still mourning the trade of Jason Heyward.


I'm not a Heyward collector, but as a team set collector who is a completist, there are two cards of the former Brave that I feel like I just have to have: one coming from the 2013 Archives set and the other from 2010 Topps. Both carry a high price tag, making me torn about wanting to spend that kind of money on a guy who, in my opinion, underperformed (offensively, at least) during his tenure with Atlanta. Were there a chance that he would re-sign with Atlanta after the 2015 season, it might be a different story.


2013-Topps-Archives-Errors-Jason-Heyward-213x300.jpg (213×300)

I know many think that the intentional reverse-negative card out of 2013 Archives was nothing more than a gimmick- and I get it. When I consider this card, the first thing to remember is that it was done as a nod to the 1957 Hank Aaron reverse negative- and Heyward, of course, was billed as the next great Braves franchise player, much like Aaron was decades earlier. This card was just an extension of what the Braves organization did by having the Hammer throw out the Opening Day ceremonial first pitch to the JHey Kid moments before his big league debut on April 5, 2010.

It's too bad that Topps couldn't do their 'passing of the baton' card during Jason's rookie season, which would have been more fitting. Oh, and it would have been nice if it would have been easier to pull. Instead, many of us fans/collectors will probably never get one into our collection.


Speaking of gimmicky, way too short-printed cards... The second of the Heyward cards that will remain outside of my collection.

22830d1282959642-fs-jason-heyward-pie-face-100_5586.jpg (744×1117)

Topps took an idea, which I liked at first, and then ruined it by making them too difficult to pull. And did it year after year. #ThanksTopps

I like that they eventually put the Pie-in-the-Face photos in the Opening Day Ballpark Fun insert set- which is where they belong. It doesn't take away the pain associated with having an incomplete team set, however.


Braves fan, after hearing of trade.
090615_nr.jpg (400×300)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Caught in the Middle of the Cola Wars

I was in for a surprise today as I sat down to do a little research on the 1995 Sonic baseball set. I googled that exact phrase, only to see images of a set that is completely different from the one I had been familiar with. Both were from the same year and feature the Sonic name on it, but look nothing alike. It didn't take long to see that the fast-food chain had got caught in the middle of the cola wars during the mid-90s.

The one Sonic set I had been aware of is the Pepsi/Sonic Baseball Greats 12-card set, with fronts that feature colored photos and red borders, while the backs are white with blue lettering and a touch of red as well as the Major League Baseball Players Alumni logo. You know, basically an All-American design for the home of the All-American Dog. Did I mention Pepsi- the All-American drink?





On the other hand was the newly discovered 1995 Sonic/Coke Heroes of Baseball 20-card set, which featured sepia toned photos on the front and a dark blue back with a smattering of red and white. Like the Coca-Cola drink, the cards are pretty bland and left a bad after taste. But let's not get into a cola debate. *actually, the cards aren't that bad.


Unlike the Sonic/Pepsi cards, which has no mention of card manufacturer, the Coke Heroes of Baseball cards were produced by Upper Deck. They also contain the Sonic logo- something the Sonic/Pepsi cards do not have (I wouldn't consider the Sonic name on its front a logo), as well as a card number on the back, which its counterpart doesn't.

As far as the player checklist goes...well, I hate to say it, but Coke wins that one as well with a much stronger lineup (BTW-no player appears in both sets).

I do find it odd that the fast-food chain got sponsorships from the two soft drink giants for its cards, considering that they serve Coke products. Perhaps they offered both (or at least served one or the other in various regions) during the mid-nineties?

While an argument can be made for the Upper Deck Sonic/Coke being the better card, there's no doubt as to which soft drink company has the better product. And it ain't the one in Georgia.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #19: Aaron Aaron, Guy on Film

Looking back at the offerings from the 1990 baseball card season leaves me with a couple of thoughts: first, only two mainstream releases (Upper Deck and Leaf) were worth a crap- all other designs basically sucked; and, two: Oddballs ruled, with plenty to choose from. Today, we will look at one card that could have passed for something from the sixties, had it featured a logo on the hat.


1990 AGFA Limited Edition Series #6 Hank Aaron

Produced by Michael Schechter Associates and distributed in three-card packs with the purchase of Agfa film, this set features twenty-two players- all of whom were retired at the time of its release.


Like most, if not all, oddballs from MSA, the Agfa set did not have team logos, due to the lack of an MLB license. No harm, no foul. The set, as plain as it is, still tops Fleer and Donruss' offerings for that season.

Bad Henry had been out of the game for fourteen seasons, but he was still getting plenty of cardboard love, just as he his today. His cardboard appearances may greatly outweigh his appearances on film, but the Hammer has nonetheless been featured on both TV and feature films. Let's take a look at just a few...

Hank on Film
Happy Days, "The Hucksters" (as himself; Season 7, Epsiode 19)

Futurama, "A Leela of Her Own" (provides the voice for himself and a direct descendent, Henry XXIV; Season 3, Episode 16)

Summer Catch (2001, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr and Jessica Biel; appearing as a scout)

Mr. Belvedere, "The Field" (as himself; Season 6, Episode 1)


and let's not forget Episode 9 from Season 1 (1960) of Home Run Derby, where Hank and teammate Eddie Mathews slug it out for bragging rights of Milwaukee.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Choices


One conundrum many of us in this hobby face is whether or not we should collect our favorite player from our favorite team. I mean, how often does a player spend his entire career with one organization? Odds are that you or I will spend an exorbitant amount of money on someone who will end up with a team we could care less about, only to discover our interest in the player wanes. It's not the rule, certainly, but is often the case. 

While most of the players I've collected over the years, namely Dale Murphy, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux, were either traded or left as free-agents, there is one player I collect who bucked that trend and never left town: Chipper Jones.

I chose this topic because of yesterday's trade that sent Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals. Being one of the more popular players in Braves Country, Heyward still has a pretty decent fan base in the world of cardboard and it got me thinking, will Braves fans still be interested in collecting Heyward? I suppose they will, just as I still collect those previously mentioned players. I can tell you that other than Murphy, I don't have as much of an interest in picking up the non-Braves cards of the Big Three. I certainly won't turn them down, but they're not high on my list of 'must-haves.'

Anyhow, yesterday also brought with it an envelope from a seller on Sportlots, and was an exclusive Chippah package: 


1997 Collector's Choice The Big Show #2


1998 Collector's Choice Mini Bobbing Heads #4


1997 Collector's Choice You Crash the Game #CG2


1998 Collector's Choice #306


1997 Collector's Choice #270


1997 Collector's Choice #326

I always enjoyed the Collector's Choice brand and wish that Upper Deck was still producing baseball cards just so we could look forward to this annual release. The '98 with the silver and red border has always been one of my favorite designs. 

An Average Card? Yes- and No

I have always had an affinity for league leader and team leader cards. They, along with season/playoff highlight cards, help chronicle the previous season in a way that the normal base cards cannot. And while I'll never not like such subset cards, I will acknowledge that not all of them are created equal.

My favorite League Leader cards are from the 1964 and 1965 Topps sets. The primary reason? The large photos and clean designs. Oh yes, I also like the vertical format. Unfortunately, most leader cards since then have been printed in a horizontal format and have a lot more going on with the design, giving them a little more of a cluttered look.

2009 O-Pee-Chee #532


You can imagine my delight, then, when the 2009 O-Pee-Chee baseball set was released, featuring cards that were reminiscent of the '65 League Leader cards. Not only that, but one actually featured 2008 N.L. batting champion Chipper Jones. I think we have a winner.

For some reason, Upper Deck decided to forgo the typical 'Batting Leaders' monicker in favor of 'Average Leaders'- something I don't recall having seen before. That, along with the fact that it has one of my all-time favorite Braves, makes this not your average card.






Saturday, November 15, 2014

He's Got Balls

All of the talk this offseason of the Braves lack of starting pitching now that Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are free agents has left me feeling blue. There's no doubt the team will face a difficult challenge in the years to come, as the N.L. East features probably the best collection of starting rotations in the majors. And it doesn't appear that will change anytime soon.

There is one thing, however, that I can take solace in and it's this: talent can only take you so far. There's something much more important. Heart. There's also another word for it: Balls.



"Obviously they [Nationals] have a talented group over there, there's no question," former Braves ace Tim Hudson said before the Nats faced his Giants in this year's NLDS. "They have some great pitching. But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs? That's going to take you real far..."

That's why I miss having Huddy on the Atlanta roster. Well, it didn't hurt that he pitched so well for the team for nine season- but he had the heart of a champion. Not to mention he's a stand-up guy.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Simply A Mouthful

I always like to try to keep things simple. "See the ball, hit the ball." "If you can't explain it to a six-year old, you don't understand it yourself." And yet sometimes, "Simplicities are enormously complex. Consider the sentence 'I love you.'" Cards can be the same- and when they are, they're glorious.

Like so many of the discs produced by Michael Schechter Associates, the 1994 Innovative Confections Sucker Savers are pretty simple in design but with parts that are all interconnected. Even the name itself is a mouth full. Want to keep it simple? Let's just call them Sucker Savers. See? Simple!



Like I said, the front is nice and clean: Red border, yellow strip, yellow diamond. All tied in together nicely. Hold the logos.



The backs...well, they, too, are simply wonderful. Blue on white. Two simple stat lines: one for 1993, the other for career totals. No Runs, Doubles, Triples, Stolen Bases, Walks, or Strikeouts. But stars. Lots of stars.

These discs were originally offered in plastic lollipop holders and measure 2-3/8" in diameter. They also proudly proclaim 'First Annual Collectors Edition' along the bottom of the disc, but as far as I can tell, there was never a second offering from the company. Which, you know, kinda sucks.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Backs

Bruce Sutter, the subject of yesterday's post, was such a disappointment during his time in Atlanta that I figured I'd go back to that well one more time. The Braves didn't get their money's worth out of him, so I figured I might as well, dangit...

I have to admit that I pay far greater attention to the front of cards than to the back of them. I guess it has something to do with us males being more visually oriented, but whatever. Card backs today, much like those pre-1991, often look the same, making them indistinguishable from one year to the next. That said, they are still a vital part of the collector's experience.

 They tell the story of a ball player from the unknown plains of America, to larger metropolitan areas.


 They can tell us of his triumphs, as well as his defeats.



Hobbies? We all have them. Families, too. 



They can also leave you scratching your head. For instance, why would the only thing you write about a player with Sutter's resume be, 'Tied for Texas League lead with 13 saves in 1975?' Thirteen years had passed when this card was released, and because of space constraints, Topps couldn't include Bruce's minor league stats at this point in his career. Perhaps this would cause the collector to pause and dig into their Who's Who in Baseball just to see where Bruce's career had taken him. 




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Never Forget

In the course of the past ten days or so, we have seen temperatures go from above normal for this time of year to below average for the same time period. It's quite strange- but one thing has stayed the same: the annual GM meetings are taking place. Yes, the Hot Stove is cooking, baby, and there's been plenty of speculating on what my team-the Braves- will be doing. Will they move Evan Gattis? Or, will they try to move either Justin Upton or Jason Heyward before their impending free-agency year? Time shall tell.


This time of year can also be difficult. Free agent signings and/or trades don't often work out how the team and its fans hope. One such free agent signing was Bruce Sutter.


The former Cub and Cardinal closer signed with the Braves on December 7th, 1984 for what was then a pretty hefty $4.8 million deal over six years (plus a report crapton deposited intoa deferred account) . In nine MLB seasons prior to the signing, Sutter had collected 260 saves and had placed in the top 5 for Cy Young voting in four of the previous six seasons (including his 1979 NL Cy Young award season). However, he had also had pitched in over 900 innings at that point, so there was a lot of mileage on his 31 year-old arm.




His first season in Atlanta saw his save total drop significantly, his ERA skyrocket and his shoulder in need of surgery. He would appear in only 16 games during the second season of the monstrous contract, leaving a lot of questions about his future. By the time the 1987 season began, Bruce had undergone his third shoulder surgery, this one would require him to miss the entire '87 season. Following his recovery, Sutter would pitch one more season in Atlanta (and final in the majors), appearing in 38 games while recording 14 saves- giving him a nice round number (300) for his Hall of Fame career.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gold and Gloves

I hope you didn't read the title for this post as 'Gold Gloves,' thinking that it would be a rundown of the awards handed out recently to the 'Finest' fielders in the majors. While the award seems to have lost some of its luster in the last decade or so, the cards I'm showing off today haven't.


1996 Topps Finest Gold Phenoms #141

The only thing I didn't like about the Finest cards from this time period was the protective film. I dislike it so much that I always peel it off immediately upon receiving these offerings from Topps. I paid about half of what I normally see this card selling for.




1999 Pacific Paramount Fielder's Choice #1 


Die-cuts are always a nice addition to the collection- even when it comes from one of my least favorite manufacturers. It's too bad Pacific didn't stick with the glove theme and include a photo of Chipper in the field. Most of the others I have seen in this set feature position players at the plate (A-Rod being the exception).