Monday, March 16, 2015

TIME TO MOVE ON

NOT READY TO HAUL THESE ALBUMS TO GOODWILL.


Relocating to Western North Carolina has required a serious look at the size of my collection. It's nearly all boxed up now, and its girth depresses and leads to a re-evaluation of my collecting habits. 

It's time to downsize.

While we're moving to a larger house, My wife and I have sworn a blood oath to be more organized. The first step is meticulously going through our stuff and saying, "Do we really need this anymore?'' 

You know the saying, the things you own end up owning you. 


MIGHT BE TIME TO CUT THE CORD WITH THESE CUPS.


Recently, we've trashed, donated and sold many things. But the baseball collection had not been addressed, the white elephant in the room. Let's be clear. My wife, who exudes as much pride in the collection as I, isn't insisting to get rid of anything. If I keep everything -- which includes many card sets, autographed baseballs and bats and photos and lithographs -- much of it will remain boxed.

That got me thinking.

If you never see it or desire to see it, why keep it? 


MOVING IS HELL.

I'm not going to sell any of it until after we relocate, and a lot of what I'd be willing to part with wouldn't fetch much. Still, it would be better than hauling it to Goodwill. 

For example, I have 2011, '12 and '13 complete Topps sets that I have no intention of putting into albums anytime soon. They're just taking up space.

Looking back, why the hell did I buy/build them in the first place? I guess it was fun at the time, and it provided some content for The Cardboard Examiner. 

Moreover, I had this idea about 20 years ago of actually building a baseball library. I've hung on to ghost-written biographies, reference books and old magazines like first-edition works of Shakespeare.

I had this moment of clarity recently that that wasn't happening. So I backed up the F-150, dropped the gate and loaded 90 percent of that baseball library. It's probably still being cataloged at the local Goodwill as you read this.


AT LEAST I FOUND MY MITT. I'M KEEPING IT.


It wasn't as dramatic as Sophie's Choice, but it was an important first step. I killed some of my babies. And you know what? It empowered me. 

It kinda felt good.

What's next? Donating the '75 Topps set to a thrift store in Black Mountain, N.C.? The Cal Ripken autographed bat? The Sandy Koufax ball?

Probably not. Those collectibles -- and far too many others -- still own me. But maybe not for long.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

2/27/15






2



27



15



I love associating uniform numbers with baseball players, as in who's the first player you think of when you see a certain number?


2 Derek Jeter 



27 Juan Marichal



15 Thurman Munson


The significance? On Friday, my wife and I autographed about a million house-closing documents and dated each 2/27/15. We bought a cabin and soon will move from South Florida to Western North Carolina. 

If you've ever bought a home (our third), closing day is an exercise in shuffling paperwork and progressively deteriorating penmanship. Fortunately, we avoided paper cuts but developed temporary cases of crossed eyes.

You'll never begrudge baseball players from walking away from a mob of autograph-seekers after surviving closing day. If you're interested in reading about this life-changing decision and see more photos than you need to of our cabin and property, hop over to my Facebook page

Another curious thing about the numbers 2/27/15: In my first pack of 2015 Topps cards purchased a couple weeks ago, I pulled 







Those numbers again. 

Flying to N.C., signing documents and PDFing left little time to scan cards and comment. As you can imagine, that won't change in the coming months when between selling our home here and packing will leave even less time. I will attempt to post occasionally.

When we're settled in among the mountains and bears, I expect to regularly post again, in between searching for a new career.


2 Jeter

27 Marichal

15 Munson 


I won't soon forget that day and combination.

Friday, January 9, 2015

NAMES OF THE GAME: WONDERFUL MONDS III






When Wonderful Terrific Monds III's grandfather was born, great grand pappy gazed at his first-born son after 11 daughters and proclaimed:

"Wonderful, just Terrific.''

Not known is if his next utterance was, "Hey, drop the 'just' and that's a helluva name!'' 

In any case, Wonderful Terrific Monds was born and fortunately the name wouldn't die with him. The Monds Squad was just beginning.

Later came Wonderful Terrific Monds Jr., a defensive back who played a season with the San Francisco 49ers after being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1976 draft out of Nebraska.

Eager to broadcast that awesome, dynamite name further into the world, WTMJ passed it on to two sons. The oldest would become the 50th pick of the Braves in the '93 MLB draft at age 20. The speedy outfielder never made it to the majors, as the talent-rich Braves were beginning their dynastic decade.

Rotten, Bad.

Possessing good speed but not much power, WTM III averaged 23 steals over his seven minor-league seasons and was successful 77 percent of the time.

Outstanding, Excellent.

His best season was in '94, playing for Single-A Macon and Durham, when he slashed .280/.330/.483 with 47 steals, 12 homers, 12 triples and 25 doubles.

Amazing, Superb.

He joined the Rockies' organization in '98 and played for Double-A New Haven, where he was the Eastern League All-Star Game MVP and led the league in steals with 41.

Marvelous, Magnificent.

Monds III, shown above on his '95 SP Top Prospects Autograph card from Upper Deck, ended his career in '99 with Double-A Chattanooga without getting a major-league at-bat. 

Rotten, Sucks.

As a Names of the Game honoree, Monds 3.0 always will be simply Wonderful, Terrific.

Monday, January 5, 2015

LET'S RIGHT SOME WRONGS



The new year brings about a new round of Hall of Fame debate and angst with the 2015 results being announced Tuesday.

At least the talking heads at MLB Network will have something new to pontificate after endlessly rehashing Winter Meetings trades the past month.

Because of the Steroid Era, the ballot has been crammed with a who's-who of the diamond's biggest stars from the late-1980s through the early 2000s, some of whom were either proven or suspected PED users. Until testing began in the '03 season, nobody technically was cheating as the owners and players' association looked the other way. Because there's no agreement among the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters or guidance from the Hall itself other than the "general character'' clause, great debate exists on how to judge these players.

It gives us all a lot to argue about at the expense of actually enshrining players. The Hall's recent rule change to reduce the eligibility of players on the writers' ballot from 15 to 10 years is designed to help unclog the ballot, but it might hurt some deserving players in need of further study.

With these eyes, 12 sure-fire Hall of Famers are on this ballot. Only 10 can be nominated. But I also see no more than three getting in, based on the BBWAA's stingy voting history. 

I can't vote for John Smoltz, for as good as he was, needs to wait a year in order to enshrine several overlooked candidates. Edgar Martinez, despite being one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time, also can't go in before my 10. Lastly, my opinion on PED users and suspected PED users has changed over the past couple of years, so I won't penalize for proven use before '03. 

Accompanying each player are three quick-hit reasons for induction and their '93 Upper Deck card because, well, I haven't featured enough of this artfully crafted set.






PEDRO MARTINEZ

  1. Led the majors five times in ERA during a period from '97-03 when run-scoring was at an all-time high.
  2. Highest ERA in that seven-year span was 2.89. 
  3. Won three Cy Young Awards and finished runner-up two other times.






  1. Struck out a left-handed record 4,875 batters, second all-time to Nolan Ryan
  2. Won 303 games and five Cy Young Awards, four in a row from '99-'02. 
  3. One of the most intimating pitchers from any era, with one mean mullet. 






CRAIG BIGGIO

  1. Had 3,060 hits, one of 28 players to reach 3,000.
  2. Ranks 15th all-time in runs scored with 1,844.
  3. Never won the MVP but was one of the NL's Most Versatile Players, excelling at catcher, second base and in the outfield.






TIM RAINES

  1. 85 percent success rate is best all-time for those with more than 300 attempts. 
  2. Stole 808 bases, fifth all-time.
  3. OK, he wasn't Rickey Henderson but was the second best in 12 of his 23 seasons, never stealing fewer than 33 bases.






  1. Hit 493 homers in a 19-year career.
  2. Slugged .509 and had a career OPS+ of 134.
  3. In 50 postseason games, slugged .532 with an OPS .917.






MIKE MUSSINA

  1. Won 270 games, 33rd all-time.
  2. Compiled a 3.68 ERA pitching all 18 of his seasons in the high-scoring AL East from '91-'08.
  3. His 83.0 career WAR is 23rd and is ahead of 40 of the 59 Hall of Fame starting pitchers.





BARRY BONDS

  1. All-time home run leader with 762.
  2. Single-season home run leader with 73.
  3. Won seven MVP Awards.






ROGER CLEMENS

  1. Won 354 games, ninth all-time.
  2. Struck out 4,672, third all-time.
  3. Won seven Cy Young Awards.








MIKE PIAZZA

  1. Can lay claim to being the best hitting catcher of all-time, slashing .308/.377/.545.
  2. Sixth all-time in WAR among catchers with 59.2.
  3. Elected to 12 NL All-Star teams.






JEFF BAGWELL

  1. Ranks sixth in career WAR (79.6) among first basemen.
  2. Slashed .297/.408/.540, just missing being called a "3-4-5'' career player.
  3. Hit 449 homers with 1,529 RBI.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1985 TOPPS DICKIE THON

WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM ...


WAS A DAMNED SHAME.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • The third of the holy trinity of "What if?'' players. Dickie Thon, like Tony Conigliaro and J.R. Richard before him, was a superstar in the making felled by tragedy. Thon, like Conigliaro in 1967, was beaned in '84. Thon, unlike Richard who suffered a stroke in '80 during his prime and never pitched in the majors again, came back the next year from a fractured left orbital bone to play nine more seasons and 15 overall. But he was never the same, going from starter to role player. Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract estimated Thon, 25 in '84, had a 51 percent chance of making the Hall of Fame before the beaning, based on his rapidly improving skills and the determination shown to play again. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • Fred Thon was in the Dodgers' organization and played winter ball with Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin. Thon would later manage in Puerto Rico, where the family was from.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Always thought the arms spread wide set position for infielders was a bit peculiar. Seems like you see most infielders with their hands close together, weight on the balls of the feet. Whatever works, I guess, even though Brooksie would disagree.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Thon was signed by the Angels as a non-drafted free-agent in '75 and skipped Double-A to play in Triple-A by '77.
  • Spent parts of the '79 and '80 seasons with the Angels before being traded to the Astros in April '81 for pitcher Ken Forsch.
  • In '82, his first full season, Thon led the NL in triples with 10, slashing .276/.327/.397 with a 110 OPS+.  He also stole 37 bags. Combined with above average defense at short, the leadoff hitter was worth 6.1 wins above replacement.
  • Thon was even better in '83, making the All-Star team, hitting a career-high 20 homers with 34 steals, slashing .286/.341/.457. He had an OPS+ of 127 and a 7.4 WAR. Clearly, the sky was the limit.
  • Then came April 8, 1984, in a game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Striking out in the first inning on an outside pitch from Mike Torrez, Thon came up in the third and said he crowded the plate, expecting Torrez to continue to work outside. Torrez came in, with the ball accidentally riding up. Season over and many who witnessed it thought career over.
  • Thon's vision was 20/150 in his left eye and eventually improved to 20/40, but most disconcerting was the permanent damage to his depth perception.
  • Despite his handicap, Thon made it back the next season, but his days as a starting shortstop for the Astros were over.
  • For the next three years, he battled eye fatique and experimented with different stances to compensate for his eyesight.
  • Had a nice comeback season in '89 with the Phillies, belting 15 homers, driving in 60 and playing in 136 games, the most since his All-Star season in '83.
  • In '91, he was awarded the Tony Conigliaro Award, which honors a player who best overcomes adversity. 
  • Tony C and Dickie T. ... Man, what if?

Friday, December 26, 2014

WHAT I DIDN'T GET FOR CHRISTMAS

  • A 1965 Topps Mickey Mantle card to inch closer to completing the set.
  • A corporate card to pretend the factory cares.
  • An official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle.
  • A 100-count box of nine-pocket UltraPro Platinum Series hologram pages.
  • A night off on Christmas.  
  • A day on the bike in the mountains of Western North Carolina on Christmas.
  • The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book.



  • One flippin' high-numbered 2014 Heritage card to cross off that set list.
  • A car drive without hearing a horn honk.
  • Chatter about real solutions to end the three-hour ballgame.
  • A quirky questionnaire I mailed Spaceman Bill Lee more than a year ago.


  • A sensible answer to police brutality. 
  • A promise from Topps not to re-use another player photo nor the 1980 design for Archives.
  • A promise of no more promises ever from Roger Goodell. 
  • A suggestion on how to really organize my collection better.
  • Unanimous agreement on my suggestion that Die Hard is really a Christmas movie.


  • Gum and wax returned to packs.
  • Respect and manners taken for granted. 
  • A declaration of war on mediocrity
  • A declaration of peace on Earth.