Monday, September 13, 2021

I haven't forgotten about you, 1959 Topps

 My post before last saw me finally completing the 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set. The other set I've been working on, 1959 Topps, has been going slowly but surely. Including the cards I have sitting in COMC's warehouse, I'm over a quarter of the way through the set, at 159/572, or 27.8%.

I've been able to find some very good deals on Net54. For $19 I got an 18 card lot of 1959 cards in very nice condition, including Richie Ashburn. Watching the binder pages starting to fill up is extremely satisfying. 

Richie isn't in the best shape, but my set is rather short on star power, so I'll take it gladly. 1958 was Ashburn's best season, as he hit .350 with a league-leading 215 hits and also league leading 97 walks.

I like the variety of emotions shown on these cards. That's Felipe Alou's rookie card, and he just looks happy to be on a Topps card. Johnny Podres looks a little bored. Larry Doby just looks angry, and I don't know if I can blame him. As the first African-American in the AL, things were not always smooth, and by 1959 he was washed up, playing for the Detroit Tigers, and didn't even have a hat on. 

I love the Howard and Shantz cards. The pink pair, not so much. What's pink doing on a baseball card? Actually, the Gilliam is a nice card, but there's a big printing flaw right by his nose, which is a bit annoying.
Though I'd prefer new cards, both Repulski and Lumpe were welcome upgrades (upgrades on right.) Speaking of which, there few worse last names than Repulski and Lumpe.

Klippstein, Repulski, and Zuverink. I love it.

A slightly bland final four for this batch of '59s. This is Stan Williams's rookie card. He would appear in Topps sets until 1972. Looking at his cards, I just realized that Stan belongs to the Topps Yankee swamp of difficulty, with others such as Bob Friend, Bob Schmidt, and Bob Meyer, as his only playing career card in pinstripes is a high number. 

Because I'm already posting about 1959 Topps cards, I might as well feature a few of my COMC cohort. I've been looking for as many cheap high numbers as I can get, and have managed to get quite a few for $1.25, or even cheaper. In other words, success. 

#507, $1.09

#548, $1.03

#572, $1.24

So I guess what I'm saying is that, despite their ridiculous shipping times and all that stuff, I can't stop buying on COMC because of the deals I find sometimes.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

1952 Topps blooper

Most people I know, on the blogs and forums, think 1952 Topps is over-rated. It's certainly not the #1 of Topps sets (as some people think), but the cards really do have a mystique in person. It's hard to help admiring such a daring set, with 407 cards, a new big size, a facsimile signature, and stats on the back. 

But I have to admit it is amateurish in some ways. The design isn't really that nice, and the downside of having 407 cards in a set is that there's a lot of no-namers. Another problem is that the pictures weren't actually color photographs, but black and white photos recolored. That usually wasn't much of a problem, but it looks odd sometimes, and sometimes the artist flat-out messed up. Looking through my cards, I found a funny example which I'll show tonight.

How about you just look at that card for a minute. A pinhole at the top, general condition flaws, the good-ol' hands-behind-your-head-without-a-ball pose, a funny flying sock logo, a signature in cursive, and, on his chest, Chicago. Wait a second.

You've probably noticed it by now. The poor artist completely forgot the I, and had to improvise with a faint line in between H and C. Ouch. 

I don't really understand why he would've missed the I if it was on the uniform in the first place, but maybe I don't understand the exact process of how the pictures were made. 

I guess that's it. I just thought it would be fun to share a cautionary tale of inattention. Good night.

Monday, August 23, 2021

My first completed set!

 A couple of weeks ago, with the arrival of #33, Willie Mays, my 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set was finally finished. And the quest all started with an Ebay order that never came.

It was probably back in 2017. I had ordered a small lot of Deckle Edge cards, but they were lost in the mail. I was very disappointed, and to console me my parents bought me a lot of Deckle Edge cards for around $20. Actually, I just decided to dive into the Ebay feedback history to get the details. It had 26 of the cards, for $16.60. Which was just an unbelievable deal. The lot had Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, Pete Rose, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, all those guys. It even had the two short prints, Joe Foy and Jim Wynn. 

That was a huge part of the set, leaving just 9 cards, but I didn't add any more until last year. I got about four in my COMC order,  one or two from my dad, one from a card show, and suddenly I only had one card left. Willie Mays. 

At the card show I went to in the spring, I had the chance to get Mays for $10, but passed it up, remembering that I had seen it for cheaper online. A decision which I cursed for a while, until I found a copy on Ebay for $6.95 + shipping/tax. Finally the set was complete. I still think I should have gotten it at the card show, but it's okay.

Mays is the last card in the set. As you can see, it's numbered to 33, but it's actually a 35 card set because both of the short prints share numbers with another player. Jim Wynn and Hoyt Wilhelm are both #11, and Joe Foy and Rusty Staub are both #22. 

1969 Deckle Edge isn't the best set ever, but it's a fun little set with plenty of star-power. The checklist is a little weird. Felipe Alou is the representative player for the Braves, instead of Hank Aaron. Being black and white makes it distinctive, and it's just a nice clean set.

It feels good to have a complete set. There's a couple cards I want to upgrade, but they're both commons so it won't be too hard. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Worst set candidate: 2001 Fleer Tradition

 We all know 1990 Donruss, and 1991 Donruss, and 1965 Topps Embossed; almost the icons of ugly sets. But a lot of disasters have slipped through the cracks, so I'm thinking about doing a little series to highlight those lesser-known wonders. Hope no one has done this before.

In the early 2000s, there were a lot of sets like UD Vintage and Fleer Tradition, which were basically devoted to tweaking old Topps designs a tiny bit to avoid a lawsuit, and then passing it off as their own. So you can't really call any of those sets good, when they were glorified rip-offs. It makes you feel that Topps deserves to be the only MLB-licensed baseball card company if that's what the other companies did. 

But the worst of those sets was 2001 Fleer Tradition. The problem, in my eyes, with a lot of retro sets is that they use a photo filter to make the pictures look older. I get why they do it, but I think it always looks terrible. But the worst use of it comes in 2001 Fleer Tradition, hands down. The action shots have the filter, and it's the worst I've ever seen. Here's an example:

I mean, look at that. Mo's face is a blur, you can barely read "New York," and everything else looks weird. And it's not the scan (from TCDB), as I have this card and it's just as bad in hand.

Some more atrocities:

What could they have been thinking?

The set could be worse. The layout is okay, and it really might be a nice front if it weren't for the stupendously bad action shots.

The backs are fairly innocuous. One thing I don't like about them is the cartoons. They're boring, and not even player specific. 

The statistics are meager, for 2001, and there really isn't anything to make up for that. Look at all that space at the top! 

And after awhile they wimp out, and don't even include the pitiful cartoons, so there's an ocean of blankness. All that space could be used for stats.

I'm not sure what to do next, so I'd be interested in hearing about worst set "favorites" of yours.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

My first time at Yankee Stadium

 I've been on vacation in New York for the last couple weeks, and yesterday I got to see the Yankees at Yankee Stadium for the first time! I saw them playing the Rangers in Texas back in 2019, but seeing them at home was incredible.  Me and my sister were both really, really excited. When we walked into Yankee Stadium, my sister had such a huge grin on her face. I was a little more subdued, but it was really cool. 

It turned out to be the perfect game to go to. But it didn't seem like it at first. I was really excited because Gerrit Cole was scheduled to pitch, but then he tested positive for COVID and was scratched, which was a real bummer.

But the actual game turned out to be awesome. The starter, Luis Gil, was making his big league debut. He is the Yankees' 6th-ranked prospect, and he pitched great, throwing 6 shutout innings. And Yankee runs and hits fell in torrents.

In the 1st the Yanks were pretty quiet, but then they scored 1 in the 2nd, and scored 5 in the 3rd! It was kind of magical, with hit after hit falling in the outfield. And in the 4th Giancarlo Stanton broke his slump with a 3-run homer. They quieted down for a bit after that. 

Giancarlo at the plate, with Rizzo on 3rd

It was cool to see the new additions, Rizzo and Gallo. Rizzo is now my 2nd-favorite player in the game, at least for now. I've heard nothing but good things about him from mournful Cubs fans, plus he's just been crushing the ball so far. (While I've been writing this post, first he had a 13-pitch walk, and then he hit a solo homer.) And I like how he has a chance at the career hit by pitch record. The record, held by Hughie Jennings from the 19th century, is 287, and right now Rizzo has 171.

After Gil was taken out, another pitcher, Stephen Ridings, made his debut in the 7th. He had been dominant in AA and AAA, with a 1.24 ERA, 42 strikeouts, and 4 walks in 29 innings. He was very impressive. After striking out the first two batters, he got to an 0-2 count on Maikel Franco before Maikel hit a double down the left field line. And then he struck out the next batter. He looked very good, consistently throwing at 98, 99 and hitting 101. And his breaking stuff was also very effective, getting the Orioles to swing at pitches in the dirt consistently.

The Orioles had some embarrassing and hilarious moments. Once, on a easy fly ball, two Orioles stood 5 feet apart and watched it drop right between them for a double. It was a double because you can't give an error to two different people for one mistake, and how are you going to say one was responsible and the other innocent? And in the 5-run 3rd, the centerfielder was throwing home on a single when the ball hit second base and rolled to first as a second runner easily scored. 

We had to leave after the 7th, which I was very disappointed at. In the 8th a third Yankee pitcher debuted, Brady Koerner. He didn't do as well, though, allowing one run over two innings. He's 27, and unlike the other two, I don't think he has much a chance of sticking with the big club. I think it's pretty crazy that the whole game was pitched by pitchers who had never pitched before in the majors. I seem to have a small streak of Yankee pitchers debuting when I see them, as Michael King debuted the time I saw them in 2019.

Aaron Judge, my favorite current player, was sitting out the day I saw the Yanks in Texas, but he was playing yesterday. He hit a home run in the 9th, after I left. 🤷

Reverse negative! Oh well. Mom's hair was kind of in my face, but that's the best picture we took that included me. As you can tell, my dad does not like smiling for the camera

The Yankees ended up winning 13-1, and we all had a great time. Thanks mom and dad for taking me!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A white whale speared, and a milestone reached

 Yesterday I went to Nick's, a card shop I've been going to for just about forever. It had been a long time since I'd gone, so I went to check things out and hopefully get some good cards. 

I only had about 15 minutes, because my Dad had a meeting. I quickly shuffled through cards, planning to spend around $10. I made a stack of some decent  cards, but there wasn't anything particularly exciting. I was looking through 1963 Topps cards, and not really finding anything, when I saw it. My dream card. 

I mean, I have a lot of different dream cards, but this was one of the big ones. A card of one of my favorites of all-time, who only has one card from his playing career. 

After staring at it for a moment, (remember, time was short), I ran out to my dad because I didn't have enough cash. He was outside the store with our dog, so I took my turn with the dog as my dad paid for the card. Finally it was mine. Okay, fine, I'll show the card now:


I've wanted a Dalkowski rookie card for as long as I've known about it, but as it's a semi-high number it's always been out of my price range. In decent condition, it starts at $40. And as I used to only look on COMC, and there it used to start close to $100, it seemed to be unattainable for now. A dream card.

I got it for $25, which is the most I've ever spent on a single card, but reasonable. Actually, it was $30, but the guy knocked $5 off when he heard that I was a huge Dalkowski fan, and had been wanting his card for years. Thanks! It's in very nice condition, too. As you can see, it's off-center, but I don't really mind that.

I think if I got this card in 1963, I would've thought that Steve Dalkowksi was made up, an April-Fool's joke. I mean, 1099 K's and 1136 walks in 697 innings? What the?

What you may be wondering, though, is who is Steve Dalkowski, and why did you want his card so much? If you've never heard of Dalkowksi, I can't really blame you, as he never pitched in the majors. But he may have been the fastest pitcher of all time. 

Dalkowski's control problems kept him from success, though. One time he hit a radio announcer broadcasting the game -- up in the radio booth. Another time a Dalko-thrown ball went above the catcher and hit the umpire in the face, sending him back 18 feet and breaking his mask in three places. He was in the hospital for three days. In 1960 Dalkowksi hit a guy in the back, which wouldn't be noteworthy except that he was in line for a hot dog. He survived, and Dalkowksi signed the ball for him.

Dalkowksi started out in pro baseball with Kingsport in the Appalachian League in 1957, and quickly showed that he was something different. That year he allowed just 22 hits in 62 innings and struck out 121, but had a 1-8 record and 8.13 ERA because of 129 walks too. The next year was more of the same, but even more so. Splitting his time between Knoxville, Wilson, and Aberdeen, he walked 245 batters and struck out 232 in 118 innings, with an ERA of 7.78. 1959 brought more cartoonish stats, with 190 walks and 142 strikeouts in 84 innings. In 1960, with Stockton in the California League, he had a career-best 5.14 ERA, and a beautifully symmetrical 262 strikeouts and 262 walks. But in 1961 he appeared to hit low, with a 8.39 ERA and 3-12 record. 

1962, though, was the turning point in his career. That year he was pitching for Elmira, which just happened to be managed by a young Earl Weaver. Weaver had a custom of giving I.Q tests to his players, and Dalkowski's turned out to be 60. After seeing this, he realized that the reason Dalkowksi was so wild was that pitching coaches were trying to get him to change speeds, throw a curveball, pickoff runners, and he just couldn't do all that. Weaver told him to just throw, and it worked. After that happened, according to Gary Cieradkowski, he struck out 104 batters against 11 walks in over 50 innings, allowing but one earned run. A star had been born.

In spring training with the Orioles in 1963, he pitched well, and was informed that he had made the major league team at the end of spring training. His future seemed assured, and his picture was taken for a Topps baseball card. But in the last exhibition game of spring, he blew out his shoulder fielding a bunt. He would never be the same again.

He had one last hurrah with Stockton in 1964, with a 7-4 record, 2.83 ERA, and 141 strikeouts in 108 innings. That was the last time he pitched well anywhere, though, and he was out of baseball by 1966, at 27. 

He virtually disappeared for the next 27 years, working as a fruit picker in California when he wasn't drunk. He was a friendly guy, and his teammates loved him, but he'd always been a drinker. Think Rube Waddell, except not as eccentric. 

In 1993, his sister put him into an assisted living home in New Britain, Connecticut, his home town, where he spent the next 26 years until his death on April 19, 2020. Rest in peace, Steve Dalkowski. He had a tragic career and life, and I hope the afterlife makes up for it for him. 

So how hard did he throw, anyway? Real data is scarce, but most people who saw him pitch give estimates of 110+ MPH. In spring training, Ted Williams stepped into the batting cage against him before a game.  After one pitch, he stepped out. Earl Weaver considered him the hardest thrower of all time, over Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, them all. It is said that the speed at which he threw caused his pitches to have a movement all their own. According to Gary Cieradowski, " Physics made the thing dip half-way to the plate, then accelerate and rise one to two feet as it blazed across it. Someone likened it to a fighter jet taking off." 

Bob Lemke's version of his 1963 Topps card.

That sounds exaggerated, but I've read similar things almost everywhere, and the thing is we just don't know what would happen if a ball was thrown that hard. 

But I'm sure you want real data before crowning him as the fastest pitcher in history. He was timed once, in 1958, at the Aberden Proving Grounds. He was timed at 93.5 MPH, which doesn't sound like a lot. However, back then the velocity of a pitch was timed at home plate, rather than 10 feet from the rubber like now. If you adjust for that, that brings it up to about 100 MPH. Not bad, but not historic. But wait, there's more. Dalkowski had pitched the day before, plus it was on flat ground, plus it took 40 minutes before he even got a reading. Taking that all into consideration, I think 110 MPH is fairly conservative.

Thank you, Gary Cieradowksi, who first introduced me to Dalkowksi in his book "The League of Outsider Baseball," which I also used as a source for this post. You might know him as the creator of The Infinite Baseball Card Set. His blog is at .


Today I hit a milestone, with 100 posts! It's taken me way too long to get here, more than two and a half years, but better late than never I guess. I'm really happy to have such great readers. As Yogi Berra said, "Thank you for making this night necessary." Comments are kind of the reward for blogging, and I wouldn't be able to do this in isolation. 

I also reached 20,000 pageviews, which is cool too. A special thanks must be given to my readers in Sweden, who have provided over a thousand pageviews in the last month. (eyeroll) Somehow I don't believe I'm a blogging celebrity in Sweden, but whatever. 

So anyway, there you have it. My white whale speared. My next white whale will probably be the T206 Jack Dunn, because I'm a big minor-league Baltimore Orioles fan, and Dunn was the mastermind behind their 1920s dynasty.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Set accumulating

I made a third order on Kronozio a while back, and it seems like I've exhausted the stores of the seller I've been using. The only vintage cards added by 'my seller' recently have been overpriced. It was good while it lasted. Anyhow, I got some very good cards in this last order, so here they are.

I made some progress on 1963 Topps, which is one of my favorites. Currently, I have 36 of the 576, and my dad has another 26, so altogether I have 11% of the set. 

Hoyt! At $2.90, this was a little on the expensive side, but that's fine for a vintage HOF knuckler. By the time this card came out, Hoyt was pitching for the White Sox. Only once in his six years with the Sox did he have an ERA higher than 2.00. 

As many of y'all know, Joe Pepitone is currently suing the Hall of Fame over the ownership of Mickey Mantle's 500th homer bat, Pepitone claiming it was his bat and he had loaned it to Mantle. It'll be interesting to see how that's all resolved. Pepitone's 1963 Topps card is his first solo card. His rookie card costs $60, as he is one of four floating heads on a high number in 1962.

The dirt cheap high numbers return, with Bell being the only of this quartet who cost more than 80¢, at a whopping $2. 

Frank Funk?
The second-most expensive card in my order, at $3.40. For some reason, you can't get this card for under $10 on either COMC or Sportlots. And $3.40 feels like overpaying a little.
I'm thinking of using the Gibbs/Metcalf rookie for TTM, as both are still living. It would make for a pretty cool piece autographed by both. 

Though Buford isn't widely remembered, he was a highly capable leadoff man for one of the greatest dynasties of all time, the Baltimore Orioles at the start of the 1970s. He scored exactly 99 runs a year each year from 1969 to 1971, but in 1972 he hit just .206, and went to Japan after the season. He played for the Taiheiyo Club Lions and Nankai Hawks from 1973 to 1976, earning Best Nine honors in his first two years. His best year was 1975, in which he put up a slash line of .330/.430/.487. 

It would be nice to get his rookie card autographed, too.

I like how in Dick Bosman's signature, the 'i' in Dick is dotted with a star. 

Now I can say I have one 1967 high number, as the Nye/Upham rookie card is #608, next to last in the set. $3.90 well spent, as you can't get it under $10 on COMC. It's in very nice condition.
I was recently rating my favorite sets on TCDB, and 1967 Topps is one of my favorites, at 9 out of 10. I'd say it's my 8th favorite set of all-time.

Etchebarren has my favorite picture of the cards I got, with the unibrow and Yoohoo's sign in the background. 

Ron Campbell's sunset card is another card that's overpriced on COMC, at $19.92. Sportlots doesn't have a copy at all. 
Despite what Topps would have you believe, Phil Ortega had an 0-2 record for L.A in 1962, not an 0-28 record.

And I'll close with two Yankees who had beautiful cards, even if their careers were not quite so beautiful. 
Ruben Amaro hit .234 with 8 home runs in his career. His son Ruben Amaro didn't do much better, at .235/16. Fred Talbot's career record was 38-56, with a 4.12 ERA. Not exactly the glory days of the Yankees.

Though I may have used up the inventory of my favorite seller, there are a couple of other sellers who have cards I'm interested in, so I might make another order sometime. 

It's been a while since I've shared any songs, so I think I'll feature some tonight.

Ruby Falls by Guster is a great song, and I think this Line Rider track takes it to an even higher level. Line Rider is a game where you build a track for a rider to go over. Rabid Squirrel is one of the greats of Line Rider. 

While I'm on the subject of Line Rider, I'll show maybe the greatest Line Rider track of all-time. Hope you enjoy these. 

Mississippi John Hurt is one of my favorite bluesmen. 

This is my 99th post, so my next post will be my 100th. I'm planning on posting a special card, so stay tuned.

Aaron Judge is batting for his second time as I write this. I hope he gets a hit. I was glad to see him score the first run of the game.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Net54 pick-up

 I joined the forum Net54 earlier this year, because I thought it would be cool to learn more about pre-war cards, and get to see all the other members' great collections. And dream of when I'll have a collection close to some of theirs. That's worked pretty well, but I've also found you can get some good deals for buying too. One member holds weekly auctions of lots of 1950s and 1960s cards, and I made a couple of purchases from him.

One was an 8 card lot of 1955 Bowman, including three high numbers which I got for $19. Before buying this, I had just three 1955 Bowman cards, so it was definitely time to get some more.

These are two cards I really bought the lot for. Jim Brosnan was one of the few real intellectuals in the history of baseball, writing The Long Season and Pennant Race, two acclaimed baseball books. He was duly nicknamed "The Professor." This card of him was my first of his, so it's not bad to start with his rookie card.

Tommy Byrne's card, like Brosnan's, is a high number. I already wrote about Byrne earlier this year, for my Christmas 1956 Topps post, so I won't repeat myself, but his control was historically bad. According to COMC, Mickey Mantle is in the background. I'll take their word for it.

Who needs a card of an umpire? Especially expensive, high number umpire cards. Nothing against umpires, they're just not exactly thrilling. I might sell the Barlick so I can get cards of some real players. Update 7/7/21: I just sold the Barlick on Ebay for $11. So that's good I guess.

1955  Bowman is a nice set. The backs, especially the ones with the dull writeups like "My Favorite Memories in Baseball," are pretty bad, but the fronts are fun in a nostalgic, heavy-handed way.

It looks wrong to see Preacher Roe as an Oriole. Especially as he never even pitched for them.

I'm glad that I have a new option for buying cards in Net54, and I'm also glad I have more than three 1955 Bowman cards now. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The best player in baseball that you've never heard of

 I know that title sounds a lot like click-bait, but this time it's actually true. If you have heard of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, it was probably in the context of his ungainly name, or maybe from me talking about him on my blog. Playing for the Rangers is definitely not the best way to make a name for yourself. The primary reason for his relative obscurity is probably that most of his value lies in his glove work. It was not until Isiah's fifth minor league season that he hit his first pro home run. In his first two seasons with the Rangers, his batting averages of .261 and .238 were certainly not impressive, especially combined with his lack of power. Another problem was that over his first two seasons, he played all over. And I mean all over. Over his first two seasons he played as much at catcher as anywhere else.

A Ranger? Seriously?

In 2020, though, Isiah finally settled down offensively as he stopped playing catcher, and was able to focus on 3rd base and short stop. In 2020 he hit .280 with 8 stolen bases -- not very impressive numbers, but he starred in the field, with 10 defensive runs saved according to Baseball Reference, winning the Gold Glove at 3rd. 

This year, playing at short stop, Isiah is having his best season yet. He is hitting .283, with 10 stolen bases and just one caught stealing. His fielding is just as good as last year, with 8 defensive runs saved and a .980 fielding percentage at short stop. 

The hobby and the baseball world still haven't woken up to Kiner-Falefa's performance. Except for guys like Ozzie Smith, glove men are always underappreciated, and he is nothing if not a glove man. On COMC, you can find plenty of his cards, including parallels and rookie cards, for under a dollar. 

I decided to take my own advice, and get some of his cards on COMC. Though I generally focus on vintage, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is one of my favorites, and it's also nice to change things up a little occasionally. 

2019 Topps Gold, /2019, $.39

2019 Topps Black, /67, $1.75

2019 Topps Chrome Sapphire, $1.27

2019 Topps Allen & Ginter Hot Box, $.60

It's quite possible that Isiah Kiner-Falefa will stay under-appreciated his whole career, or that his fielding will cool off and he will go back to being average. But I'm not getting his cards for the investment (investing on a gloveman is a bad idea); I'm getting them because he's my second-favorite current player. And if his cards do heat up, I'd be kicking myself if I hadn't gotten any. Who knows, maybe I'll become an Isiah Kiner-Falefa super-collector (not sure yet if I'm joking).