Friday, October 9, 2015

The Truth of Finality

"Unlike most, a ballplayer must confront two deaths. First, between the ages of 30 and 40 he perishes as an athlete. Although he looks trim and feels vigorous and retains unusual coordination, the superlative reflexes, the major league reflexes, pass on. At a point when many of his classmates are newly confident and rising in other fields, he finds that he can no longer hit a very good fastball or reach a grounder four strides to his right. At 35 he is experiencing the truth of finality. As his major league career is ending, all things will end. However he sprang, he was always earthbound. Mortality embraces him. The golden age has passed as in a moment. So will all things. So will all moments. Memento mori."  ~ Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer

Roger Kahn randomly (?) used the age of 35 to describe the point in life where the the athlete comes to the realization that his time on the field is short, that the end is nigh. Though I have never played professional sports, my own experience in life confirms the 'truth of finality,' as Kahn calls this phenomenon. Thirty-five was an age where my own frailty began showing: my hand-eye coordination wasn't as good as it once was; my memory, a little slower to recall; the aches and pains, a little more intense; my body, a little slower to heal.

After being released by the Phillies just two days before the start of the 1993 season, Dale Murphy didn't stay unemployed for long. The expansion Colorado Rockies, looking for veteran help, made Philadelphia's decision a little easier by indicating that they would be willing to sign 37 year-old outfielder. An 'Iron Man' for most of his career, Dale had missed only a total of 42 games between 1980 and 1991- but the daily grind had taken its tole on his knees, leading to him having to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery in November of 1991. Murph would play in 18 games during the 1992 season. His time in Philadelphia, short. His career nearing its end and the truth of finality, undoubtedly, beginning to settle into his mind.

As a fan and collector, there was nothing I would have liked to see more than to have Topps include Dale as a Rockie in their 1993 Traded set. But with only 49 plate appearances in 26 games for the Rockies, it wasn't to be. One interesting card, however, was this one- from the special Rockies Inaugural Year set. It is probably the closest thing we'll get to a Topps card showing Dale Murphy as a Colorado Rockie. Unless, of course, the company does one in its Archives set. *HINT, HINT*

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this awesome custom of Dale, created by Steve over at White Sox Cards. It is my all-time favorite custom card, BTW.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Collector's Duty

The Major League regular season ended two days ago and I couldn't have been more relieved. What started out as an exciting year for the Braves (as they were overachieving) quickly began spiraling out of control as the team went 12-41 after sitting at .500 on July 7th. The team turned it around over their final fifteen games- going 10-5 during that time- but by then, I had lost interest. Go Seahawks!

In the midst of all of that misery, I discovered my interest in baseball cards had waned, too. And so it was with reluctance that I bought the Heritage High Number team set- kind of like I bought it out of shear duty. Going through the motions, as some might say.

However, when it arrived yesterday- the first day of the off-season- I found myself actually excited to open on the package. How did I know what the contents were? I had purchased only two items in the last couple of weeks (the regular high-number team set, and the one Braves SP from the set), and both arrived on the same day.

One of the positives about Topps putting out a High Number series is that it allows team set collectors like myself the opportunity to add many of the guys found in the flagship product. And as the flagship product continues to drive me away, this (and Archives) is a nice alternative.

The two cards I was most looking forward to adding to the collection: Peterson and Wisler. While Wisler turned things around the final month of the season, Jace proved himself to be the player I thought he'd be: a super-utility guy. Peterson has some nice tools, but too many plate appearances will expose his weaknesses. Hopefully he adjusts and proves me wrong.

Monday, October 5, 2015

I Don't Mean to Brag, but...

Ah, who am I kidding? Yes I do. I think I might now have the coolest, the baddest blog header photo ever. Don't you wish your ex-manager was that cool? I mean- the gold chain necklace, the gold bracelet, the pinky ring. And that stogie- with all that smoke. Let's not forget the look. Did you poop your pants yet? Okay then, it's time to get down to business.

In case you're viewing this on your phone and can't see it, let me post the picture before I move on to today's card.

There you go. I just have to say that this photo deserves to be in next year's Stadium Club product. But because Joe's smokin' a stogie it won't happen. And that's a shame because this photo oozes awesomeness. How awesome? I need this to be on cardboard. That's how awesome this photo is. I like it so much, I'd buy a t-shirt with it and the inscription "Joe Torre is my homeboy."

Okay, now on to today's card.

Hired by Ted Turner following the strike-shortened 1981 season, Joe Torre replaced another future Hall of Fame manager (Bobby Cox). Atlanta had shown promise in 1980- finishing 81-80- but then slipped to 50-56 during the final season of Bobby's first tenure. Not only did the Braves improve during Torre's first season, but they won the West- shocking the baseball world by going 89-73. 

Joe, following his firing in October, 1984, stated that his first season in Atlanta might have been his downfall. "Probably the worst thing that happened to me was winning the first year we were here because you people's mouth watering for what's next, and we really never got to that next plateau," Torre said at a press conference after his firing.

Unfortunately, Topps didn't include a card of Joe in its 1982 Topps Traded set. So our first taste of manager Joe Torre came in the 1983 set. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I do like Joe's '83 card. But it could have been so much better. Any one of these photos would have sufficed. And it was a different world, back then. A cigar-smoking manager didn't seem like such a bad thing.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #40: Superstation Supercards

As if I needed another reason to reminisce, a recent tweet from @BravesHistory got me...reminiscing.

The tweet read, "Even the rain delays were fun...Andy Griffith, Sanford & Son, and This Week in Baseball" and had followed another one that had declared, "Braves on TBS was great. It felt natural. Fox loves scripted storylines and talking points. Back then, it was baseball, Skip, Pete & Ernie." The context of all of this was an "OTD" in 2007 tweet from @BravesHistory, when TBS had aired it's final Braves telecast- ending a 30-year relationship with the Braves franchise.

While I didn't have the pleasure of watching the Braves telecasts during the 70s (as painful as it might have been), I did get the opportunity to watch these guys during the 80s and 90s. And even when the team stunk, the three announcers provided fans an excuse to tune in.

You had Skip Caray (pictured in the middle), Harry's son & Chip's father, whose sharp wit, acerbic style and off-color jokes put him in a class all by himself. In his memoir, "Of Mikes and Men", broadcast partner Pete Van Wieren notes 'brash, cynical, and impatien' as words that were used to describe Skip. And yet, he was loved by the fans.

Van Wieren (pictured on the right) was known as the professor. He brought a great deal of baseball knowledge to the crew (hence, his nickname). Fans, and colleagues, were amazed at the information he could pull from his brain. Remember, this was long before the information we have at our access today.

Finally, there was the veteran of the trio, Ernie Johnson (pictured on the left). Ernie had pitched for the Braves in the fifties and and returned to the organization in 1960 to work as the PR director until entering the broadcast booth in 1962. Known for his 'folkiness', Ernie was the optimist and was like that beloved uncle. In fact, the crew used to refer to him as Uncle Ernie. Johnson is also the man who is regarded as the founder of the Braves Radio Network- which, at over 150 affiliates, is the largest sports radio network in professional sports.

As much as I'd like to have those 'good old days' back, there's something I desire perhaps even more.

As you can see by the description from the Standard Catalog, this set is quite rare. I have searched online for years and have never seen any listed, let alone anything at all about them. While I wouldn't refuse any of them, I would most certainly like to obtain the Murphy card. At this point, it seems like an impossible wish. But that's what makes collecting so fun- that thrill of the chase.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Get Your Kicks on Card 66

'Get your kicks on Route 66'~ Bobby Troup

'Where do you get your kicks?'~ AC/DC's 'What Do You Do For Money Honey'

The iconic 'Main Street of America'- also known as Mother Road, or the more recognizable name of Route 66- connected communities across America, from Illinois to Los Angeles. No longer were smaller towns without access to a major national thoroughfare. A few decades after the peak of the Mother Road's popularity, an Atlanta-based television station by the call letters of WTBS connected a community of baseball fans- from the southeastern part of the country known as 'Braves Country' to Washington state. Somewhere along the way (Idaho, to be precise), I joined in the fun.

My connection to 'America's Team' was largely in part to #3, Dale Murphy. And, as tough as it is for me to admit it, I have Ted Turner to thank. Had it not been for Turner's visionary leadership, I probably would not have become a Braves fan (all the way in Idaho!), or a Murphy fan. A Murph collector? Never would have happened.

And so, where do I get my kicks? Collecting Braves and Murphy cards, of course. Three, of which, are numbered 66. Each coming in consecutive years from Donruss.

Have you ever gotten your kicks from card #66?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thanks for All the Memories

One advantage of living so close to work (roughly 2.5 miles) is that I go home for lunch on most days. Yesterday was one such day, and as I walked from our driveway to the house, I checked the mailbox-hoping to find a package. Not just any package, mind you, but a bubble mailer from COMC. It was waiting for me, but I waited to open it until after I ate my lunch. After all, man does not live on cardboard alone.

Among the ten or so cards were three Allen and Ginter minis for my daughter (Man's Best Friend inserts), a couple of Braves cards and a few Seahawks cards- including today's featured card, the super sweet 1989 Seahawks Police card of Steve Largent.

I'm a sucker for police set issues. This is my first football one- I have plenty of Braves police issues- and the first thing I noticed on the back of the card was the lack of the typical 'Stay in School' or 'Keep Away from Drugs' moralistic message. Nope, no tips on this one- ⎌just sponsor logos and a list of Steve's NFL records. And a great message thanking Steve for all the memories, to which I say, "Amen!"

Among the many memories from Largent's career was this play, in which he absolutely drilled Denver safety Mike Harden, here at 2:09.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


One of my biggest hobby vices is getting behind. Behind on scanning. Behind on filing. Behind on trade posts. It seems that no matter how hard I try to remedy this problem, I just can't seem to keep from getting my baskets buried.

Baskets? What is this, Easter? Halloween? No, I'm referring to my card baskets.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I decided to buy a few baskets measuring around 4'x9'. One for trading material; one for scanning/posting; one for filing into my albums. I did this because I had a tendency to get buried in cards. Inbound and outbound cards usually ended up in stacks- often anywhere from 5" to 7" high. I bought these figuring if I kept my three stacks in baskets only 3" in height, I would have no other choice to stay on top of the game. It would look more organized; the stacks, less likely to get knocked over (which wasn't really a problem. Still, why leave it to chance?). But, as so often is the case, my plans don't always pan out how I would like them to.

One group of cards that got buried in my 'Scan and Post' basket was a team set bag of cards from Brad over at Brad's Phillies Blog. I've had these close to three months and had forgotten about them. That'll happen when your stack exceeds the recommended height.

Anyway, Brad included cards of many of my favorite Bravos:

Dale Murphy

Andruw Jones

Signing Sighting! Always a favorite of collectors.

Andrelton Simmons

X-Fractor? Refractor Rookie Card!

and, of course, Chipper. Plenty of Chipper cards!

Brad also included many other players- too many to include in this post, but still very appreciated.

It's always a plus getting new cards and getting them posted. The one down side I'm now facing: now they might just get buried in my 'File' basket. Guess I'd better get to work.

Thanks again, Brad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


We homeschooled two of our children for a number of years and one of my favorite parts of the experience (yes, I was involved in the education) was the study of Ancient Greece. I suppose that's because there was a time during my childhood where I was fascinated with Greek mythology. That interest was fueled by the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans, and it was fun to revisit some of those old tales. Anyway, our study went beyond those old stories, as we did a unit study that incorporated subjects such as art, literature, science and medicine, government/politics and the philosophers. Basically, it was an introduction to the birth of Western Civilization. 

The Greeks loved and honored their heroes almost as much as their gods- pretty much blurring the line between the two. I guess we're no different in the twenty-first century. But instead of sculpting our heroes, we collect images of them on cardboard (unless you're talented enough to draw or paint them, of course). 

While he may not have ever slain any dragons, or cut the heads off of a Gorgons (none that we know of, that is), Chipper Jones certainly played the Greek-like hero during the great 2014 Atlanta Snow Storm, rescuing Freddie Freeman. Oh, and he was pretty good at killing the baseball on the diamond.

Combine a player like Jones with the great Topps Gallery Exhibits set and you're going to get a Classical card. Don't believe me? Just look at the back of the card.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Rack of What? Well, I'll Have Some of That

'Hey waitress, eh, er- ma'am. You got any specials here tonight me and the fellas might be interested in? What's that? What? A rack of what? Well, I'll have some of that!!'-  Van Halen's Good Enough

It was with much trepidation that I bought the very first album to feature Sammy Hagar on vocals for my (then) favorite band, Van Halen. I had heard the first single from 5150 ("Why Can't This Be Love") early that spring, 1986, and I wasn't exactly blown away; but being a fan, I did what fans do- I bought the record. My fears were relieved at the very first notes of "Good Enough," the album's opening track. I said it then, and I still believe today, that the track is the one Van Hagar song that I could easily see (or, hear) Diamond Dave belting out. Perhaps that's because the origins of "Good Enough" date back to the Wild Life movie score, which Eddie penned in 1983 while Roth was still in the band. Well, that, and it, lyrically,  just sounds like something Roth would write.

The band would go on to much success with the Red Rocker at the mic, though to this day there is still that debate about whether or not the lineup during this era should be considered 'Van Halen.' Whether you loved it, loathed it, or were just plain indifferent about the lineup, there's no denying that, while it was a different lineup, it was still Van Halen to the core.

I didn't collect cards in 1986 or 1987, but I've got to believe that the reception that 1987 Topps baseball received was kind of similar. You would have a group of collectors who loved the design- not to mention the strong rookie crop- because it reminded them of their youth ('62 Topps, '55 Bowman). You also had a group who probably hated it because it was a rip-off of a set from their youth (yes, '62 Topps or '55 Bowman) or because it looked like the cheap wood paneling found in the basement or like the paneling on the side of the old family station wagon.

Had I been collecting at the time of its release (and been an adult with income), I would have been all over this product- buying it by the case. Instead, I bought a box years later... and just recently picked up this rack pack for the Dale Murphy collection.

I would have preferred that the Murphy card be his regular card from the set (#490), but won't deny it a home in my office. Besides, with as much of this product as there is out there, it shouldn't be too tough to find a pack with that base card.

Just as 1987 Topps baseball pays homage to the 1962 set, Van Halen's 'Good Enough' pays homage to the Big Bopper's 'Chantilly Lace'

And here's the original track, as recorded for the Wild Life soundtrack

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Common Man

"On my own I'm no better than- all alone, I'm a common man." ~Black Country Communion's Common Man

The 2015 baseball card season is winding down and we're beginning to see info coming out for 2016 products. One such product- 2016 Topps 1 Baseball- introduces a departure from the norm for the flagship release. For the first time, it appears, the base cards from the iconic company will feature full-bleed card fronts. And as a Topps team set collector, this change might just lead to a change in my collecting habits.

Fuji had a post yesterday where he confessed to being loyal to Topps and I, too, have echoed that sentiment for years. My stance has always been that if the company were to lose its MLB license, I'd be done with current card team sets. Topps was the only game in town when I began collecting and they have always stayed pretty true to their schtick, if you will. Even when I left the hobby in the early 2000s, I still bought the Braves Topps team set for the first two of those years. But times are a changing, and with filteration used on most of the photography in the flagship product and now a borderless card... it may be time to make a switch.

As I've pondered whether to make a change, the obvious question is whether or not to continue with team sets. Archives and Heritage are both certainly worthy of carrying on the tradition, with one small exception: the common man.

One of the great things about Topps' flagship product is that it still contains many cards of the common man. As much as all of us would like to see our team field a fantasy team each game, it's not going to happen. Unless you're the Yankees, of course. Anyway- as a team set collector, I want to have commons included in my collection. Without them, the Braves (or any team, for that matter) aren't truly being represented as they should. Like I said, this is real life- not fantasy baseball. 

So in the meantime, I guess I'll just hold my breath until the 2016 Topps release date and determine how strong my convictions are. Do I travel the road that has all the mom-and-pop stores, or do I take the exit that leads to the area with all the big box stores?  Time will tell...

No, this isn't Rush's Tom Sawyer- although the opening guitar certainly sounds like it.