Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ball Four and Ted Williams' Wacky Life

I was in the middle of listening to Ball Four a few weeks ago. So it was weird to discover the last chapter in Jim Bouton's life ended.

Jim narrated his audio book (watch this link for his thoughts on the experience). And that made it feel eerie - as if your friend was just talking to you a few hours before he died.

The story Jim tells is so relatable. His obituary and this column touch on that theme. It captures a slice of a time and a place that’s long gone. Yet it still applies to anytime and anywhere.

There’s a constant struggle to hang in there at work – to be good enough. It's also a struggle to deal with all kinds of personalities. It was much more than I expected right down to the last sentence.

I'd like to have hung out with Jim for even 30 minutes. But I’m grateful he was still able to talk to me.
Rest in peace, Jim. 1939 – 2019

A lot of players were referenced in Ball Four – either directly by Jim or by someone in the book. One of them was Ted Williams:
Jim Pagliaroni was telling us how Ted Williams, when he was still playing, would psyche himself up for a game during batting practice, usually early practice before the fans or reporters got there

Coincidentally the Ted Williams Card Company printed a Jim Bouton card.

And here’s the Ted Williams phone connection...

It's a superb 1959 Fleer oddball. And it's the second oldest baseball card with a phone (of the 1950's Bakelite variety). Fleer reprinted this card in 2004. If someone has one I’d trade for it.

Ted’s got a weird look on his face as if he’s annoyed with the world. Apparently that was a theme with Ted.

I finished reading The Sports Immortals, one of the spring cleaning books I'm selling. 

It goes into detail about Ted being annoyed by the press and fans. He even spit into a crowd and got fined the equivalent of $46,500 in today's dollars (5% of his salary).

As Ted aged, his son John Henry managed Ted's life. According to this ESPN article it didn't sound fun for Ted. His son also apparently pushed to freeze Ted cryogenically.  One story gets into some wacky, gory details about his frozen head.

Both Jim and Ted's death reminds me that in the end we’re all the same. Life can be large and filled with lots of fans, but it shrinks as you age. It dwindles down to those closet to you in relationship or proximity. So choose wisely.

Card facts: it's card #41 out of an 80 card set focused on Ted Williams. Apparently #68 was pulled out of production and is expensive (plus forged a lot). Glad I don't need or want that one.

Current Availability: common but not cheap (especially for ones in nicer shape, like the one I got)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

An Almost Perfect Game

One the 100 Greatest Sports Feats covers Harvey Haddix, who pitched the hell out of a game in 1959.

I was skimming through some books that are destined for the sell pile (or as trades for cards). I've gotten all I can from them. Now it's time for someone else. But before they go I'll write about some book to card connections.

This Illustrated True Book is what Wally or the Beav would’ve read on a street curb.

Reading a book published in 1964 about a then-recent event is a little weird and interesting. It starts with a dedication to John F. Kennedy, who died in '63. So it's like experiencing history told in the voice of that era. There's a time machine quality to it.

Haddix still holds the MLB record for most consecutive batters retired in one game (36). He was battling a serious cold yet managed to become the first to pitch a perfect game through 12 innings (noted on his tombstone).

I picked up Harvey's 1993 Upper Deck card two years ago.
The card's got a lot going for it. The best thing, of course, is the serious 50’s phone (no curly cord just straight old school).

This seems to be a phone made of Bakelite, an older type of plastic. It looks like this one someone's selling on Etsy:

The card back summarizes his almost perfect game. There’s also an explanation of the Baseball Assistance Team. This is a cool idea - a foundation that helps ball players in need. BAT still exists. Fuji also posted a box break with more info here.

There's a more "recent" 2009 article titled the Greatest Game Ever Pitched that's written 50 years after the game. It's worth a read. And last Sunday marked the 60th anniversary.

I wonder what he's reading while chatting on the phone...

Card facts: based on the 1912 T-202 Hassan Triple Folders card design, this 1993 Upper Deck series is named either B.A.T. Triple-Folders or All Time Heroes of Baseball. They’re an oddball size (2.25” x 5.25”). It's card #61 out of 165.

Current Availability: semi-common (handful on eBay and some on Sportlots)

Sunday, March 24, 2019


You hear about lucky ducks (not lucky chicken unless it's a parody though there are probably lucky duck chickens living free range into old age). Some people have their lucky charms but I’m late for any luck of the Irish analogies. There’s also the luck of the draw that happens when cracking packs. 

Most of the time it takes a combination of a sharp eye and luck to find what I’m looking for. That’s exactly what happened when the phone caught my eye in Tuukka Rask's 2018-19 Upper Deck Compendium Blue card.

This the first in what will be a short series of hockey players with phones.  There’s no cryin’ in baseball (well maybe a little) and there’s definitely little phoning in hockey.

I started the draft for this post last December (when I included this card in my Top Reads of 2018 post). I got the card from comc (they show a stock photo and I think it's part of some e-pack program they have). Here’s the back:

A few months later I’d forgotten about my draft and I was on vacation.

I walked by a little lending library and glanced at a book called Capital Gaines Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. The title combined with the cover’s Dennis Quaid look-alike convinced me to grab it.

I was told Chip’s from one of those fix-it house shows. Based on his book, he seems like a solid guy. One thing stood out: “I’ve never been one to give luck much credit, but you got your hands on this book for one reason or another, so let’s just assume this happened for a reason.”

The reason was sheer luck (combined with a catchy title and photo).

Someone put the book there. Nobody else grabbed it before I took that specific path on my walk. It was just like finding a card you didn't expect to uncover.

Turns out Chip's book is more of a self-help book. Regardless of how you feel about those, there's a notable chapter about baseball that's worth reading. 

Chip was extremely focused on playing pro ball. The odds are tough and he was cut from the team in his college sophomore year. But through determination and hard work he found success elsewhere

Some people have a tough time admitting luck as if it somehow negates their hard work. Dilbert's Scott Adams believes you always discover luck in the mix when drilling into success stories

I’m in the luck + hard work = success campMy theory is luck's everywhere: your parents and their genetic make-up, whether you encounter life impacting health issues and so on.

There are players like Roberto Clemente, who was unlucky at a juncture in his life that led to his death. Others like ’75 rookies Brett and Yount were lucky to have avoided career ending injuries. Combined with their skill, the results were long, successful careers.

Some believe everything’s been decided. Maybe. But when it was decided, that’s when luck occurred (and now is when you're experiencing it). 

I'm grateful for the lucky things in my life because I've had my fair share of unlucky. Was coming across a hockey phone card and inspired by luck?

I think so.

I dropped the book off back to the library so luck could strike again for another unwitting person.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Top Reads of 2018

Sometimes the days are long and the years are short, right?

I’m glad to finish documenting my favorite blog reads (for myself but sharing since it may interest others). Have a Happy New Year 2019!

I’ll start with some more unusual topics. A card blogger wrote a fascinating post about Aphantasia. It’s not card related, but something discovered through this hobby that was an interesting read. Nick smells his books (at least that’s out in the open) – I get it and so do others. This was a weird card delivery experience – not judging, just interesting. T.J. and 13 bloggers passed a card box around the country in the Griffey Generosity Project (check out the map). I’m not a Griffey collector, so don’t send me the box :-)

Lost and Found. There are a few things I wish I could find that I remember from childhood. I don’t think I’ll find them at this point, but glad for Bob found his Elston Howard signed photo. That post was a follow-up to his previous Elston post. Combined they made for a fun read.

Safety first. Several posts dealt with bad sellers or traders. Raising awareness helps the good citizens of the collecting community. Paul covered some bad Sportlots sellers. Julie had some problems with some trades (lot of comments on that one). And Corky spotted a sketchy eBay sale. Stay safe out there.

Creativity. Gavin’s a creative guy and I like his vintage gif card posts like this 1971 Frank Robinson. The way it’s just laying among other cards feels like some morph between a scene from the 70’s and a future paper LCD card. And speaking of creative, Lost Collector had a good idea I had to document for my future self – turning a wrapper into wall art. And finally there’s Joe’s Pointless Pairings that includes Ernie (not Banks).

Travel. I’ll likely never go to the National, but this blog has great coverage and Mark had a good write-up here. But I will go to San Diego, so thanks to Tom, I’ll checkout the Tony Gwynn museum at AleSmith Brewery.

Blog bat arounds started by Night Owl. First was what do you collect with over 40 bloggers participating (I had to check if I wrote something, and then remembered, oh yeah, I barely wrote any posts so what was I thinking). Another good one is about how you started to collect cards. One of these years I’ll get my act together and participate.

Until then, I'll note that I collect 1975 cards and reprints (like this Gibson 2011 Lineage), Athletes with phones (like this Hockey card I'll write about soon), Star Wars green series reprints, animal mascots, funny cards (like over-sized bats/gloves/helmets), Wacky Beanball/Beastball reprints, and I'm planning a history of Topps starting with 1952 to present (preferably with 1975 players but commons of any year are also good).

Discussions. There were many great discussions in the collecting world, a few favorites are here: Sports Card collectors Do You Hide The Hobby? And Fuji’s junk card era double post, plus his post on how we’d all change the card universe.

I’ve only seen blogger cards in blog post like Tom’s (and previously a nice 2015-style card with Fuji – he’s out of them so if someone wants to trade that one – let’s chat). I think I’d collect these, having a set would be a fun oddball collection but I have none so far so maybe that’s not in the cards (uh oh, the bad puns are coming out).

Gratitude started at Opening Day with Mark’s anniversary post and continued at Thanksgiving with Tom’s thoughts about family and summed up perfectly by Fuji who hit the mark (I couldn’t agree more... running water should be in the list).

Rumination. Two posts were homeruns. Fuji summed up the sports blogging community touching on topics such as gratitude, harmony and diversity that I couldn’t imagine it being written any truer or better. Thank you. And Mark blew the dust off collecting, which resonated with me. The unique thing about card blogging is the intersection of a several things. You’ve got card collectors. Then card traders. Blog readers. And finally the writers. The last one usually mixes the others into a brew that along with other “real” things in life, makes writing a challenge. Kudos to those who’ve done it for years let alone a decade. So in 2018, Mark posted 56 times, which was more than enough to read. And that’s a lot more than I wrote, but who’s counting…

If you find any great posts next year, please share in the comments. I don’t read all the card blogs and I’m always interested in good reads.

PS: Like finding a lost box of cards, I found some 2016 and 207 posts mixed into my 2018 working list so those posts are updated both here and at 1975baseballcards.com.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Top Reads of 2017

10. Nice story of found boyhood treasure.

9. Corky, inspired by a comment from Fuji, wrote about an experiment (burying some cards to see what would happen). It’s the equivalent of an oddball card. The result was a couple of creative posts that starts here and ends here.

8. Reading about breaking repacks is like eating junk food. Capewood’s break of 15 repacks is tasty junk food.

7. shoeboxlegend took a diversion with vinyl for an interesting Christmas post. 

6. Bob demonstrates that nostalgia is a helluva drug and it’s pretty good for those who weren’t even there.

5. Nick’s bookstore clerk experience had a synchronistic twist where he recommended a book to its author and shortly after getting a custom card depicting the book’s topic (Disco Demolition).

4. I’m glad Tom posted about this bat rack he made. I picked up some bats this year and this idea may come in handy.

3. We got to live vicariously with Fuji's win at the slots that led to landing a key card in his collection. 

2. We are more than our hobbies. This is highlighted by this meaningful post from Fuji that features nice artwork given to him by one of his students.

1. Night Owl shared one of his top collectible gift experiences. It's a great read. Now a Ron Cey lamp resides with a collector who appreciates it (as it should be). I think we can all relate.

For the rest of my favorites of 2017 jump over to my other blog 1975baseballcards.com.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Tops Reads of 2016

As the year winds down, the world starts reminiscing.

This series is dedicated to those who wrote my favorite things in 2016. That’s no typo. Saying my blogs operate at the speed of molasses just might offend molasses. This has been in my idea pool for a few years, so I’m catching up…

6.  I’ll start with a tie. P-Town Tom’s  chipmunk relocation project was unexpectedly amusing. And The Lost Collector tackled ridiculous people spouting opinions of what we shouldn’t do with our cards.

5.  Night Owl lays down a snack trail leading us from a shopping trip to the punchline. I still remember this made me chuckle: “As you can tell, the smoke is back… Marte is pointing the way to the nearest exit. Cover your nose and proceed in an orderly manner.”

By the way, if you’re looking to add some 2016 Topps mini cards full of smoke to your collection, jump over hereAnd good timing since there’s a comc sale starting on Christmas Day.

Nick’s Frankenset Bracket series led me to buy some cards that I didn't know I needed until I saw his posts. Some are so oddball good they're just core to any collection.

3.  Julie’s delightful blog hosted three posts by guest blogger Cheryl (
onetwothree). Everybody’s got a unique story but the best posts (like these short n’ sweet ones) are relatable by highlighting what we have in common.

2.  Corky wrote of his top pickups of 2016. These are always a fun read but this was extra special. It led to a discovery of an oddball C-3PO error card. I collected Star Wars cards as a kid so not knowing this was a like finding out the Cave of Time was always in your basement. How could you not know that? This card inspired me to pick it up and that led to riffing off the green series with green bordered buybacks and reprints. I’m still looking for a green border 30th anniversary buyback if anyone has one. The journey continues…

 Fuji’s blog is at number one for its consistent smorgasbord of entertainment like flea market action, one of my favorite series. I can walk the stands with him and see the cool things he discovers. There’s always a refreshing mix of topics with cards cleverly woven into each theme. Plus I like that he keeps it real with posts like this one.

For the rest of my favorites of 2016 jump over to my other blog 1975baseballcards.com.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Hard Working Athletes with Phones

Old Spice was the first deodorant I used as a kid. I hadn’t thought of that for a long while. But the memories sprang right back when I came across this 70's ad while cleaning up.

Back then, I didn’t know what hard work was. But 1957 Joe Collins knew. 

This is the oldest Athlete with a Phone baseball card (it sure looks like a phone next to him). Joe was in his 10th year with the Yankees and had earned 6 World Series rings. He was a hard working guy... maybe he wore Old Spice.

Joe spent his entire career with the Yankees. His teammates included DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

·       Card facts: This card is in a Topps set that was a bit revolutionary. The first with full color photographs of the players (not colorized), the players' full career stats were listed on the back, and the cards had the standard dimensions we're used to (2.5" x 3.5")
·       Current Availability: common but not cheap (especially for a card in nicer condition)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Phone's Gonna Knock You Out

The year was 1991. The airwaves carried LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. And on a related note, this Bill Costello (better known as Billy) card was printed.

It might be the only boxing card you ever find on this blog. It's the Holy Grail of boxers with phones.

And even if it's the only one, that’s ok because it’s a fantastic candid snapshot. Billy’s holding the phone with boxing gloves. There’s a turnstile and some random dude in the background. And the “I’m not gonna tell you twice” expression has the right feel for a boxing card.

The last few months knocked me out of blogging, so this is the right card for right now. During my hiatus, Commishbob got in touch and generously sent a blog-warming gift pack of cards. It included the Costello that’s in nicer shape than the one I had. Thank you!

Billy boxed for 20 years. You can read his accomplishments on the card back.

A New York Times article about his 2011 death mentioned he played high school baseball. He aimed to go pro but was sidetracked by way of a convenience store robbery. But he turned himself in thanks to his dad. Then a series of events led to boxing which sidestepped a life of crime.

After retiring, he worked as a home contractor and pro boxing ref. He was only 55 when he died of lung cancer and is memorialized here (rest in peace).

·         Card facts: likely only two other cards of Billy were made
·         Current Availability: fairly common (good selection on comc and eBay)

Saturday, July 21, 2018


As far back as I can remember, I’d answer the phone with Hello.

That word started the conversation. And this post will start an ongoing chat about cards of athletes with phones.

This the first card (that know of) in this oddball category: a 1976 Topps Don Strock rookie football card...

He's holding a run-of-the-mill phone from the 1970s. These were everywhere. And your color choice didn’t include Space Gray. It was Avocado. Harvest Gold. Or maybe Poppy Red like Don’s phone.

I can’t even remember the last time I saw or used that kind of phone. Maybe I’ll need to track down a new, old style phone.

Since the card doesn’t have a full shot of the phone, here’s a 1973 ad that does. 

There’s a Lee Majors looking guy calling the Amazon.com of the 1970’s. So I could talk to a real person, tell them what I want (without hunting it down on a web page), and get it delivered in hours? Sold!

I’ll have the Avocado colored blender. That’s, let’s see… $183 in today’s dollars – must be a good one. They don’t make them like they used to. I’ll add a 1975 push button telephone to that order. What could be nicer? Only that shag carpet.

Parts of the premise were more advanced than the online shopping of today. But we’re all in the future now, so we know GiftAmerica didn’t pan out and most of us will have to wait for delivery within hours.

Let’s wind this down with the back of Don’s card that includes a very groovy 70s orange color.

Don was with the Dolphins since 1973 during their prime: back-to-back Super Bowls in ’72 and ’73. But he didn’t really get started as a Quarterback until 1975. He was a backup QB due to tough competition from Bob Griese and Dan Marino. Later Don would be a key player in The Epic in Miami game, and he was on the other end of the line as the QB coach for the Ravens from 1996 to 98. 

The card design is a winner. I like the simplicity and football team name graphic. 

But the photo makes me wonder… did his coach say Hello? They probably just got to the point. There’s a game to play.

  • Card facts: only one of five cards spanning Don’s career from 1976 to 1988
  • Current Availability: very common (with a good selection throughout comc, eBay, SportLots)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mr. Watson Come here I want to see you

Humanity's built on what preceded us. And this blog wouldn't exist without the telephone.

So let's start at the beginning, a functional phone made by Alexander Graham Bell.

The first words spoken on a phone were Bell's on March 10th 1876: "Mr. Watson Come here I want to see you.” It's documented in his own journal at the bottom of the first page here…

We'll conclude our mini history lesson with Upper Deck's overview on the back of Bell's 2008 SP Legendary Cut #110 card...

  • Card facts: Serial numbered to 550. This card series ran from 2001 to 2009 and once again in 2011. 
  • Current Availability: common/limited (several scattered throughout comc, eBay, SportLots).
    A 1/1 with "Memorable Moments" text repeating info from the standard card is on eBay at a ridiculous price.

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?