Wednesday, November 22, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 29-21

Greetings, food-preppers and TV vegetators. It's the day before Thanksgiving and I've got a post that hopefully will last you the whole holiday.

Perhaps you've seen that map of the United States separated into regions according to the side dish that is most prominent on the Thanksgiving table. The Northeast was declared squash country. I've lived my whole life in the Northeast and have never had squash at Thanksgiving.

In fact, the whole map was filled with stuff I never eat at Thanksgiving -- macaroni and cheese, cornbread, salad. Here is a proper Thanksgiving table according to me:

STUFFING (in capital letters as it deserves to be)
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes (I like the melted marshmallows on top)
Cranberry sauce
Green bean casserole (this comes from my wife's side of the family, it's OK)
Rolls of some sort
Pies (any kind will do, but pumpkin must be an option)

Most of these food traditions are rooted in the '70s when I was a kid. I like these foods. They make sense to me. As long as you're not using Stove Top stuffing (or good lord, putting raisins in it) and scrimping on the cinnamon in your pumpkin pie, then it's difficult to screw up.

Speaking of the '70s, it's time to turn my attention to the cards I collected then. I'm afraid this edition of the Greatest 100 Cards of the 1970s is only nine cards long because I goofed the last time and gave you an 11-card segment instead of 10 (I repeated the No. 32, perhaps some of you eagle-eyes caught that before I changed it).

But these are nine really good cards, so I think that makes up for it.

So, ready? Switch on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special (it debuted in the '70s, of course), plop that paper pilgrim hat on your head, and give your mom a hand in the kitchen, please!

It's the greatest cards from the '70s, numbers 29-21:


Pete Rose, 1976 Topps, #240

There were few major league players more well-known to the general public in 1976 than Pete Rose. And, Rose, well, Rose was in your face.

In '76, Rose made his first on-air appearance for Aqua Velva aftershave, actually singing -- a ballplayer singing -- on television. Rose was everywhere. In the newspaper, on magazine covers, on your TV. He was an all-star, a World Series champion, that guy who runs to first base after every walk.

He was in your face.

The '76 Topps card of Rose is most appropriate. We could not possibly get any closer to Rose than we are with this card. There is Charlie Hustle, that pugnacious stare, the sideburns that won't quit, his own name brandished on his drop-down sunglasses, up close and personal.

I got tired very quickly of Rose being in my face. But I never tire of this card.


Jose Laboy, 1970 Topps, #238

I've mentioned earlier on this blog that there are several "bat-selecting" photos in 1970 Topps. They're all great. There's even another one on this countdown in Tony Taylor back at No. 94.

So what makes this bat-selecting card better than all the other bat-selecting cards in the '70 set?

It's quite obvious:

1. Expos uniform
2. rookie trophy
3. red shopping cart

I could add chain-link fence, freezing Expos coach sitting in the background, the fact Jose was more well-known as "Coco," the list goes on.

I fell in love with this card the minute I saw it. It's a well-established Cardboard Appreciation subject and deserves all of the praise that it gets. When I get down on the 1970 Topps set -- and I have plenty of times over the years -- I need to remember this card.


Joe Hoerner, 1976 SSPC, #456

Joe Hoerner died in a farm accident when he became pinned between a tractor and a tree. He was once involved in a boating accident that killed two people and injured others. The last pitch he threw in the majors hit a batter and the last thing he did on the field in a major league game was punch a player in the face. He survived numerous blackout scares on the mound, the result of heart problems that may have come from a debilitating car accident when he was a teenager.

Hoerner endured quite a bit in his life. So let him wear a sunhat if he wants.

Hoerner was also a well-known prankster, which is probably why we see him wearing a woman's hat. It is the most charming card in the entire 1976 SSPC set, which is known for its charm. Perhaps the best part of the image is how pensive Hoerner appears to be as he wears that very silly hat.


Bobby Bonds, 1976 Topps, #380

You may think this is ridiculous, but certain baseball cards come with their own sound. They are few and far between but this is one of them.

As a kid, I would look at Bonds' muscular arms and hear Bonds' bat shattering the card wall between me and him. I didn't need 3-D or holograms or whatever gadget card companies came up with to sell kids on cards 20, 30 years later. I had already seen a card that featured its own sound effect.

Bonds was a Yankee, he had just completed his first season with the Yankees. Because this was a Yankee card, I could only stare at it from afar. I didn't get to own many Yankees cards because I was surround by their fans and they always demanded them from me. I didn't much care, but I sure wanted this particular card.

I don't think I ever owned it until I was completing the 1976 set several years ago. When I did obtain it, I could hear that noise all over again.

It's a mighty card. One of the mightiest of the '70s.


Hank Aaron, 1974 Topps, #1

No doubt, this is a great piece of cardboard.

But I am obsessed with it for two reasons.

First, I feel that Aaron was robbed of a card that looks like all the other cards in the 1974 set. Sure, I know, he was on the cusp of the greatest achievement that baseball had ever known at that point in time, but wouldn't you want a regular card of Aaron, too, to mark his place in time with all of the other Aaron cards?

Second, I am perpetually amazed at the assumptions made with this card.

Sure, Aaron was just two home runs away from setting the career home run record at the end of the 1973 season. If he played in 1974, and his contract said he would, then he'd break the record.

But he was still two home runs away when the 1974 cards were starting to be created. And Topps had already declared him the new all-time home run king! On the first card in the set! What if Aaron -- perish the thought -- got hit by a bus in the offseason? He was getting death threats by the end of the '73 season! That had to be common knowledge, right? It seems like a risk taken that was totally out of character with what Topps had done prior.

The back makes the assumption, too. "Hank becomes baseball's all-time homer king in 1974." Not "will become," not "likely will be," but "becomes."

Fortunately, it did happen. And that's why this card is tremendous and worthy of the countdown. But there had to be some Topps people sweating bullets when cards were being made between the 1973 and 1974 seasons.


Fred Lynn, 1975 Topps, #50

Fred Lynn is the first rookie sensation that I ever knew.

Lynn won the Rookie of the Year Award and the AL MVP award in 1975. No one had ever done that before. As a kid in a Red Sox family (dad and brother Red Sox fans), that was some powerful stuff. Fred Lynn's image on a three-foot poster soon appeared next to my brother's bed.

Lynn's first solo card was highly coveted. The fact that it was an action card made it much more amazing than the card of the other half of "the Gold Dust Twins," Jim Rice. (Still a fine card, by the way).

Star Wars wouldn't become public knowledge until trailers of the movie appeared in the fall of 1976, but Lynn's bat appeared to be a light saber in his hands. A light saber or a scythe. Clearly, Lynn was doing damage with that thing (although he likely has just fouled a ball into the dugout).

I also liked the red theme that travels through the entire card, from the border, to the then-new-style Red Sox uniform, to the card base.

This was the beginning of an appreciation for the Red Sox that continued until they won it all in 2004 (the interest is somewhat diminished since, but they'll always be "good guys" to me).


Billy Martin, 1972 Topps, #33

I wasn't collecting cards in 1972. Too young. But if I was, I'll bet I would have missed Billy Martin's middle-finger address to the photographer.

I don't know if Martin was intending for kids to miss the gesture. I don't know if he thought this photo would end up being cut. I do know that Martin probably didn't think of any of that or even think his gesture meant anything other than signaling a temporary annoyance with something -- who knows what -- from the perpetually bothered Billy Martin.

But it's interesting to come up with scenarios of what potentially happened. Was the photographer being too intrusive? Had Martin admonished him repeatedly? Was it one of those deals where Martin suddenly noticed he was the target of a picture, thought, "oh, fuck that" and instantly stuck out his middle digit?

There are those who believe Martin is merely resting his finger on the bat. No big deal.

Having grown up with Martin in the news, I don't believe that for a second.


Roberto Clemente, 1972 Topps, #309

It's a little bit sad that some of Roberto Clemente's greatest cards are some of his last cards. At the pace he was going at, imagine the later cards! That 1975 Topps Clemente would have been a doozy!

I like this '72 Clemente a lot, it's probably my favorite Clemente card. The casual ball toss almost always makes for a great card, but it's particularly interesting here as Clemente was perceived as a serious individual. The photo contrasts with the perception.

It adds to the fun of what it is a very fun set, 1972 Topps.


Oscar Gamble, 1975 Topps, #213

If someone were to come up to me and ask me, "what were the 1970s all about?", I would hand them Oscar Gamble's 1975 Topps card and proclaim "THIS!"

If they asked me to clarify further, I'd just keep repeating "THIS!"

Is it the Mickey Mouse ears afro? "THIS!" Is it the sideburns and mustache? "THIS!" Is it the neon pink and yellow border? "THIS!"

This card is so of the '70s that it could not appear in any other decade. It would be laughed at in any other decade. Oscar Gamble would be laughed at in any other decade (he toned down his act as the '80s progressed).

Oscar Gamble and 1975 Topps came along at the exact right time to make one of the most wonderful cards that I have ever seen. I pulled this card during the very first year I collected as a 9-year-old during the summer of 1975.

It looked 100 percent normal to me.

That concludes the latest edition of the countdown. Just 20 more cards to go!

I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving, no matter what they eat or how they celebrate. Even you people eating salad.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Welcome back, Walmart

I don't like that I go to Walmart as often as I do. I'm not there every day, but I stop by probably every other week when you average it out.

It's just a necessary evil when you live where I do. It's a small city, and it's far removed from anywhere else. So it's just a fact that if you want certain things, you're going to have to do the dirty deed and walk through those electronic doors.

Besides, there are baseball cards there -- or at least there were baseball cards there until Aaron Judge mania hit.

Ever since May or June, the Walmart closest to me has been devoid of baseball cards. Lots of football cards. Plenty of basketball cards. A whole bunch of those magic/funko/other junk taking up valuable shelf space meant for baseball cards. But no baseball cards.

My trips to Walmart of late still always include a stop at the card aisle. But I don't really expect to see anything I want.

Today, I needed to go there to get some Christmas lights. I am way ahead of the game this year. I've actually started Christmas shopping before December hits (this never happens) and I have all the outside lights up, too (this also never happens). But I needed to add a few more strings because the people who sell Christmas lights are even more dastardly than those who make baseball cards, and still to this day, have not figured out how to make lights last longer than a year.

Walmart has the only kind of red lights that I need (yes, I realize that the reason my lights aren't lasting more than a year is because I'm buying them at Walmart, stop hassling me, all right?). So after grabbing a couple boxes, I detoured to the card aisle.

I was stunned by what I saw. Stuffed amid the sea of football and basketball was a bunch of Topps Update blasters and hanger boxes. And next to all of that Aaron Judge was a bunch of hanger packs and blasters of ... huh, Topps Gallery?

Not even a week ago, I had not a clue that Topps Gallery was a thing in 2017. I thought it was coming out next year. Then I saw it on the Waiting 'til Next Year blog and realized that the hobby was going too fast for me again.

I wasn't all that impressed with what P-Town Tom showed so I didn't bother with a blaster. I grabbed two hanger packs for $5.98 each (12 cards a pack) and got the hell out.

This reboot of Topps Gallery comes after reboots of Gold Label and Tek. I personally didn't care about these sets the first time they came out (heck I wasn't collecting then). But I guess the 10 people who were collecting in the late '90s have nostalgia, too, so, sure, I'll play along.

Pack 1

#114 - David Dahl, Rockies

The cards are of average Gallery card stock, maybe a bit skinnier, with a slight gloss to them. The look of the cards is fairly boring, but, like I said, I was never that thrilled with Gallery. (I did like the 2002 version).

#66 - Maikel Franco, Phillies

#105 - Daniel Norris, Tigers

#MP-13 - Albert Pujols, Angels, Masterpiece insert

Masterpiece inserts appear in every other pack on average. They're glossier than the average cards and they look pretty swell. These are my favorite cards of the ones I pulled.

#35 - Jose Altuve, Astros, Gallery Heritage insert

Topps seems to be pushing Bowman in every set this year. At least it's using an early '50s Bowman look. The Gallery Heritage inserts are 1 every 4 packs.

#HOF30 - Mike Piazza, Mets, Hall of Fame Gallery insert

This insert is also 1 every 2 packs. These do nothing for me.

Because this is a modern set, it's chock filled with retired guys and rookies. I found the rookie logo four times in each pack.

#127 - Rick Porcello, Red Sox

That's your back. Mayumi Seto does the sketch cards in this set and I guess she worked on the base cards, too. Many of the pictures shown in Gallery are actual photographs, so I'm not certain what she did (I have no graphic design knowledge).

#52 - Paul DeJong, Cardinals

#53 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers, canvas parallel
#100 - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, canvas parallel

These are the two canvas parallels that are promised in each pack. Although they only look like canvas and don't feel like canvas (boo), I couldn't have picked a better pack.

#19 - Carson Fulmer, White Sox

#84 - Trey Mancini, Orioles

Rookies, rookies, rookies!!!

Pack 2

#91 - Dinelson Lamet, Padres

#MP-12 - Adam Jones, Orioles, Masterpiece insert

#24 - Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Gallery Heritage insert

#HOF-8 - George Brett, Royals, Hall of Fame Gallery insert

#94 - Jesse Winker, Reds

Look familiar?

There you go.

#47 - Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox

#81 - Magneuris Sierra, Cardinals

Look familiar?

Probably would make sense to collect just one set a year, that is if I collected current sets anymore.

#134 - Matt Duffy, Rays

#55 - Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, canvas parallel
#54 - Jose DeLeon, Rays, canvas parallel

Not as awesome as the previous pack. Only one former Dodger.

#76 - Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals

#63 - Kendall Graveman, Athletics

There you are.

I'm probably done buying any more of this, unless I find myself in Walmart between now and the end of the year, which would mean I am having a no-good-terrible-very-bad-time-during-this-festive-time-of-year and need cards for survival.

The cards shown today will go to usual trade partners (except the Dodgers, of course).

My card desk shows that there have been a lot of one-and-done sets this year (one purchase and that's it), so it's not like I neeeed to have Walmart's shelves stocked with baseball cards all the time.

It's just nice to know that they're there again.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fernando and friends

Fernando Valenzuela is currently part of Topps' stable of retired stars that it trots out for a variety of products each year. There is no shortage of new Fernando cards lately, because Topps and Valenzuela apparently patched up whatever rift they had several years ago that prompted him to do this.

Although seeing the same retired stars in my current sets has been annoying for so long that I would be annoying if I complained about it again, I'm happy in Fernando's case. Because it spurred me to go on a brief Fernando card-buying binge recently.

I am constantly amazed over how many cards I don't have of my favorite players from the 1980s. My brain thinks I should have all of these already. My brain doesn't know how wrong it is.

I discovered this on a brief tour through COMC:

I thought I owned this Fernando already. How can you miss him in all of '85 Donruss' black-bordered glory? But there are TWO Valenzuela cards in the Highlights set, because Valenzuela was Pitcher of the Month in both April and July in 1985.

A classic need from the '80s is Classic cards, this one from 1987.

You think you have all the Topps glossy goodness from the 1980s and then Fernando gives you that forlorn look. "What about me?"

Can you believe it? I needed a 1987 Fleer card and had no idea. I'm stunned that I haven't been sent this card 15 times in the last 10 years. Almost as stunned as how young everyone looks on this.

Box-bottom greatness. I didn't know there were 1991 Fleer box bottoms until very recently. I think this is the first card I put in the shopping cart.

I made one modern-day exception. This is the bronze version.

Late 1980s Drake cards are one of the peskiest kinds of oddballs. This is from 1987 and I'm so pleased I own this that I plan to go out and buy a stash of Devil Dogs to consume all at once.

Yup, this is a sticker. Normally I don't go out of my way to buy stickers. But I couldn't resist this 1984 Topps item because of all the inappropriate stretching.

Any star player from the late 1980s likely has his own Star set, meaning card after card after card of the player in various scenes and poses, many of which should have hit the cutting room floor. You can go broke chasing a complete set down. So I just nabbed two.

I wanted this one because Valenzuela was known for his hitting and there are so few cards of him doing so. The back mentions his best hitting came against the Giants and the Braves. Fernando was awesome.

And of course I had to get the family photo! This is fantastic. Valenzuela is here with his wife, Linda, and his two sons, Fernando Jr. and Ricky (he also has two daughters).

The Valenzuela cards came with some friends because I can never stay focused when buying cards. There's no way I could commit to FERNANDO VALENZUELA CARDS AND FERNANDO VALENZUELA CARDS ONLY!

So I grabbed a couple of randoms that caught my fancy.

Not sure how this popped on my screen, but the instant I saw it, I knew I needed it. Paul Konerko is being devoured by man-eating pennants.

This card is for the 1977 TCMA Galasso Glossy Greats set quest that will someday take over all of my card thoughts. You may see a want list sometime next year, although right now it would include just about every card in the set.

Recently, Commish Bob showed off his TCMA 1960s set, which is absolutely beautiful and another set I need to chase someday. For now, though, Ron Fairly needed to be mine.

Finally, this card finally reached my abode.

I've seen several collectors pick up this 2017 Archives autographed card of Wally Moon and I've been jealous every time. It's a wonderful card, as colorful as it should be (although the letter placement for a 1960-motif is all off) and correctly features Moon's unibrow most prominently. Also, it ain't no sticker.

This is my final online card purchase before the holidays hit. I always have to go on hiatus until January because other people I know want gifts at this time of year and, shockingly, they don't want baseball cards.

But that's OK. The feeling of knocking off all those Fernando Valenzuela cards will keep the card cravings down for awhile.