Friday, May 31, 2013

Same Basic Design, Same Pictures??

To many, the 1950s were the golden age of baseball cards.  The cards were on actual, thick cardboard.  They had colorful designs.  For much of the decade, the cards were big.

But for a three year span, from 1954 - 1956, the Topps cards had the same basic design.  The card featured a large head shot of the player in the foreground, while an action shot was in the background.  The names all had the same font, as did the positions and team names.

If Topps were to repeat major design elements for three consecutive years now, they would be massacred in the blogs and forums.

But not in the '50s.  The market for the cards was kids, not adult collectors.  And the kids in the '50s didn't seem to care.

The kids didn't seem to care that not only were the designs similar, but many cards used the same pictures, two and even all three years.

I'm a kid of the '60s.  I care!

I went through my Cubs cards to see just how many players had repeat pictures.

There are six players that had cards in two or all three sets.  Of the six, only one had different pictures...Ernie Banks

Well, he had two different pictures, but the '55 was repeated in '56

Hank Sauer was in all three sets also, and he had the same picture... all three.

Howie Pollet was in '54 and '55..

...and its Howie2

Paul Minner showed up in '54 and '56.

The year off didn't mean Topps was taking its time to find a new picture.  Sorry, Paul, you get the repeat treatment.

Jim Davis and Bill Tremel were repeated in...

'55 and '56.  I've got the cards arranged so the heads are next to each other, giving a good look at the repeating going on.

The repeating stopped in 1957, when Topps when a drastically different route by using actual photographs while shrinking the card size to the now familiar 2½" x 3½" format.

Well, the repeating kinda stopped.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is This How They Wear Baseball Pants in South Africa

Cubs prospect Tayler Scott is the first South African to be drafted by an MLB team.  He had a decent season last year with Boise, going 5-1  for the short season A team.  But check out his card in Bowman, and pay attention to his pants...

...Look at how he has them cuffed.  He's going high-socks, which is fine (though stirrups would be better!).  But notice the strange way he has his pants turned over  below the knee.   It looks like he was wearing long pajama pants and had to roll them over a couple times to get the high sock look.  Very weird.

That was the second odd thing that caught my eye.  The other was his uniform.  It struck me as odd that Scott, a 2012 draftee, would be wearing a Cubs uniform.  If he had been with the team a couple years, I could understand a spring training shot of him in a Cubs uni.  But Scott's first spring with the team would have been in 2013 and I don't think that Topps would have had the time to make a card of him with a spring training shot.

So I did some hunting and found that Topps didn't use a spring shot.

They used a Boise Hawks shot and did some photoshopping.  Now I'll have to do some digging to see how many of the other prospects in the set were photoshopped.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiver Wire Crap Shoot

The Cubs bullpen was horrible at the start of the season.  Carlos Marmol couldn't buy an out and Kyuji Fujiwaka got hurt.  Soon April 14 the brass scanned the waiver wire, found two pitchers, and rolled the dice.

They were one for two.

Kameron Loe was salvaged from the Mariners. Turns out the Mariners had a good reason for releasing Loe: he stunk!  In eight inning over seven games with the Cubs, he gave up 12 hits and five runs.  He was released on May 10.

Kevin Gregg was the other April 14 acquisition.  This was absolutely frightened me.  I knew the bullpen was bad, but was it so bad that Kevin Gregg would be an improvement?  My fright was based on his first stint with the Cubs in 2009.  Kerry Wood has left the team via free agency and Gregg was picked up from the Marlins to be the new closer.

The 2009 Kevin Gregg was not very good.  Though he did have 23 saves, he also had 7 blown saves and 5 losses. The Cubs didn't bother to resign him after the season.  Now, four years later, he returns.

Shockingly, his return has been great.  In 14 games, he's yet to give up an earned run and he's notched six saves.  Whodda thunk that Kevin Gregg would be lights out?  Not me!

Will he keep it up through the rest of the season?  Who knows?  But for now, Theo/Jed looks like a genius for signing Gregg (and an idiot for signing Loe!).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Something About Those Emerald Greens

It's been four months since series one came out, but all that time there's been something about the emerald green cards that's been bugging me.

When these type of cards first showed up in 2011, I was all over them.  I got the entire Cubs set of both...

....the platinum and....

...cognac sparkle cards.

Last year they showed up again, and...

....I got the entire Cubs team set, this time in gold.

But when I saw this year's emerald sparkle cards, I wasn't interested in them at all.  Part of it was burnout.  I'm getting tired of chasing all these parallel sets.  But there was also something about the look of the emerald cards themselves that left me bored with them.

I finally figured out what it was.

Take a look at a page of nine of them.

Now look at these...

...The Cubs have had emerald cards already for the past several years.  There's no need for me to collect cards with a green background...I've already been doing that for years!

Here is David DeJesus' base and emerald cards, side by side.  The picture has hardly had to change much at all.  And the border looks like ivy, too.

So I've figured out why I'm not interested in the emerald cards....why bother with cards where you make the green ivy

Monday, May 27, 2013

Danbury Mint 22kt Gold Billy Williams

Lately, most of my player collection attention has been given to Darwin Barney.  As an active player, there always seems to be new cards and rainbows to chase.  I'm fine with that, but I also have to make sure that I don't completely ignore the other players I collect.

I've recently found some Billy Williams cards to add to his collection and I'll get a post up as they arrive.

Today's card is this golden beauty...

...from Danbury Mint's 22kt Cooperstown Collection.  

The card is encased in acrylic and this is one card that will have to remain in its plastic prison.

The back of the card features his career stats.

The Danbury Mint set is another that I knew nothing about, so I went to school on it.

The entire collection is made up of 200 cards.  They were released in four 50-card series between 1996 and 2003.  Cards were sent, two per month, to subscribers.  There was an album into which you could place your cards as you received them.  Only people that completed  the first series were allowed to purchase the subsequent series.  That fact makes the last 150 cards a bit more scarce and a bit more expensive.

Billy's card is #99, meaning its from the second series.  The Standard Catalog puts a price of $6.00 on it, but I was lucky enough to pick it up for 99¢.

I've gone through the checklist and found nine Cubs.  Oddly, other that Billy Williams, none of the nine are players I collect.  No Banks, Sandberg, or Dawson.  Instead, the Cubs are...

Don Kessinger, #23--interesting choice for the only Cub in series one.
Fergie Jenkins, #70
Ron Santo, #92
Sammy Sosa, #95
Billy Williams, #99
Mark Grace, #119
Bill Madlock, #129
Moises Alou, #153
Kerry Wood, #199

I'm pretty sure that the list.  I've never seen a picture of the Mark Grace card, and it came out in 2002, so its possible that it shows him with the Diamondbacks.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bowman Week: Barney Rainbow

Darwin Barney was included in the 2013 Bowman set, so that means another Barney Rainbow.

Bowman is typically full of parallels and the 2013 set has a bunch.  The cards include:
  • base set
  • State and Hometown
  • Gold
  • Blue, numbered to 500
  • Orange, numbered to 250
  • Red, 1/1
  • Silver Ice
  • Red Ice, numbered to 25
  • Purple Ice, numbered to 10
  • White Ice 1/1
  • Printing plates, four colors 1/1
That's a total of 14 different cards.  I've got eight of the fourteen, the cards that weren't 1/1s.  None were too tough.  The 1/1s have been pretty scarce.  I've only seen one of the six, a printing plate.  I'm happy to just have my eight.


My favorites would have to be the ice cards.  Especially when you hold the card a bit to the side, they look pretty pun intended!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bowman Week: Words Topps Can't Say?

When series one came out in January, Topps caught a lot of grief for not using Pete Rose's name.  Cards with the Career Chase line for most hits said the player "was XXX away from the all-time record of 4,256."  Each of the other Career Chase lines included the name of the record holder.

Topps said that the omission was dictated by MLB and they were just doing as told.

The back of Darwin Barney's Bowman card is missing two words that should be there, and I'm wondering if this was Topp's decision.

Here's the back...

...and here is a closer look at the line in question.

Do you notice two words that should be included but aren't?  How about "Gold Glove"?  Shouldn't it read "In 2012, he won the Gold Glove award as the best keystoner in the NL."

No fan call it the "award."  It's the "Gold Glove."  So why did Topps not use those words?

They've used them before...or at least they did a long time ago...

...this is from Glenn Beckert's 1969 card.

My guess for the omission...Rawlings won't let them.  In most writing today, its not the Gold Glove Award, it the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.  My thought is that Topps avoids the words now so they don't get into trouble with Rawlings. because Rawlings has a history of being cranky with the award.

Check out what happened last year. Brandon Phillips won his third Gold Glove in 2011.  He uses a Wilson mitt, so Wilson made up a special glove for him, which had some gold in the webbing.  Rawlings response?  They sued Wilson!  Rawlings claims that they have the rights to any concept that includes "gold" and "gloves".

Here's a quote from the suit Rawlings filed.

Mr. Phillips is one of Wilson's paid endorsers and is also a three-time recipient of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Prior to winning the 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove Award, Wilson manufactured and supplied Mr. Phillips with a Wilson branded baseball glove that did not include metallic gold indicia.

Not only is Mr. Phillips using the Infringing Wilson Glove in the field during games, warm-ups, and practices, but Defendant and Mr. Phillips also have promoted the very existence of the glove (and its connection to Wilson) through various channels and media.

Sounds pretty petty to me.  But probably petty enough to keep Topps from mentioning Gold Glove winners.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bowman Week: Cream of the Crop Minis

It is now apparently impossible for Topps to release a set without including mini cards.  The overused insert has now made its way to Bowman.

The Bowman minis are cards called "Cream of the Crop."  The checklist is made up of each of the 30 teams' top five prospects.  For the Cubs, four of the five were already included in the Top 100 set, so these cards seem a little redundant.  Of course, since they are mini cards, I guess that means we're supposed to get all stoked about them.

I'm not.

I'm tired of mini cards.  The novelty has worn off.  The uniqueness of them is gone.  Please stop!

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario is the only of the five Cubs that didn't make the Top 100.  I don't know who at Topps picked the top five Cubs prospects, but I wouldn't put Candelario on the list--he's still a bit raw.  He's in his third professional season though only 19-years-old.  WIth Kane County in Low A, he's got a .241 average and only 1 homer.

The other four minis are the same four guys I wrote about yesterday, so I'm not going to bother rehashing all of that.  Instead, just take a look at at the cards.



I'll finish up Bowman week tomorrow with a post on some words that Topps either can't say or doesn't want to say.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bowman Week: Top 100 Cubs

For the third time in the past four years, the Bowman brand includes a 100 card insert set of the top 100 prospects.  The first two versions (2010 and 2011) saw the set called Topps 100.  After taking a year off, the set returns with  a slightly different name, Top 100.

The Cubs landed four in the Top 100.  These four have much more buzz associated with them than the four in the prospects set.

I'll start with the lowest and work my way up.

Number 88, Daniel Vogelbach.  He's a big boy with big power.  But with first base locked up by Rizzo for years to come, Vogelbach has no future in the Cubs organization unless the DH come to the National League.

Number 37, Albert Almora   The 19-year-old from Florida was the Cubs #1 selection last June.  He broke his left had in spring training and has yet to play a game this year.  He played his first game of the season yesterday at Kane County.

Number 34, Jorge Soler  Theo took a big risk by signing the Cuban Soler to a nine year, $30 million deal.  He's had some temper issues in the minors this season, but he's hitting over .300.  With the dollars invested in him, I'd expect to see him in a Cub uniform by 2015.

Number 14, Javier Baez  This guy seems to have it all...speed (20 SB in 57 games), power (12 HRs) and average (.333). He had a really nice spring while with the Cubs, but there wasn't ever any thought that he was MLB-ready.  He's in High A ball right now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bowman Week: State and Hometown Cubs Cards

The Bowman International parallel has been around, on and off, since the late '90s.  It returns again this year, though with a new name.  International is out, State and Hometown is in.  The name has change but the concept is sill the same--the background has a map or flag from the player's home.

It's flags in the background this year.  For US players, the flag is that of their home state.  Foreign players have their country's flag behind them.

I'll start with the most unusual....

Tayler Scott.  Do you know the flag?  It's not one known for baseball....South Africa.  In fact, Scott is the first South African to be drafted by an MLB team.  There are several other South Africans in the minors (this page has more about them), but there has yet to be an MLB player born in South Africa.  Will Scott be the first?


Three Cubs are native to the baseball hotbed of the Dominican Republic, Castro, Soriano, and Alcantara.

Other foreign-born Cubs in the set include...

....Fujikawa, Japan

....Amaya, Venezuela

and Villanueva, Mexico.

States represented by the US-born Cubs include...

....California, Jackson

....Florida, Rizzo

....Indiana, Samardzija

...and Oregon, Barney

As Bowman week continues, tomorrow I've got the Top 100 Cubs.