Tuesday, August 5, 2014

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING ...

HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS POST, BUT I LOVE THE CARD.


After consistently producing content thrice weekly for the past 2 1/2 years, perhaps some of you have noticed the cacophony of crickets chirping at The Cardboard Examiner the past month.

A vacation and more time spent on competitive cycling squeezed my free time. And now a future change in residence will compete for valuable time.

I'm not saying goodbye to this blog.

Yet.

I love it too much. It's like a personal diary about baseball cards. I have lots to still write about. Lots of cards to examine. Lots of inappropriate words and things to write.

I have very few followers and debated even writing an explanation for my absence, but there you go.

Until I post regularly again. Hopefully, in the very near future.

Friday, June 27, 2014

1959 TOPPS HARVEY KUENN

1959 WAS QUITE THE YEAR FOR KUENN.


''HARV'' MASTERED HIT 'EM WHERE THEY AIN'T.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • For an eight-time All-Star who averaged only eight home runs a season, Harvey Kuenn's legacy is somewhat surprising. Kuenn, promoted from hitting coach at midseason in 1982, managed Harvey's Wallbangers, the wild and woolly outfit from Milwaukee who led the majors in home runs while winning the AL pennant. Long before that, he was a .303 lifetime hitter who never hit more than 12 homers but led the AL in hits four times, including his rookie year in '53 with 209. He also was part of one of the biggest trades in baseball history. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • He was moved from shortstop to center field in '58 and had his best season to date. He'd top that the next year.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Standard-issue gum-card dugout mugshot with an ever-so-neat facsimile autograph. But don't call this card boring. The red template and tiny gold Tiger logo make it roar.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Kuenn was named AL Rookie of the Year in '53, establishing a major-league record for rookies with 167 singles. Ichiro Suzuki broke that in '01 with 192.
  • Followed up that debut with two nearly identical seasons in '54 and '55 and began teaming with another young Tiger, Al Kaline, to form a dynamic duo.
  • After batting over .300 in each of his first four full seasons, Kuenn hit only .277 in '57.
  • Bounced back the next season to hit .319 and led the majors in doubles with 39.
  • Won his first and only batting title the year this card came out, hitting .353 and also leading the AL in hits (198) and doubles (42).
  • Before the '60 season, he was traded to the Indians for '59 AL home run champ Rocky Colavito, who hit 42, the only time a reigning batting champ was dealt for a reigning home run leader. Indians fans cursed this deal but in Detroit, most liked it, seeing that the Tigers were in dire need of power.
  • Kuenn spent only the '60 season in Cleveland, making his last All-Star team while batting .308 with 145 hits, nine home runs and 54 RBI; he was traded to the Giants for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland
  • Remained in the NL for the rest of his career and retired in '66 after 15 seasons and 2,092 hits. He also never struck out more than 38 times in any of those seasons
  • Joined his homestate Milwaukee Brewers in '72 as coach and was interim manager for the final two games of the '75 season after Del Crandall was fired.
  • Health problems began plaguing Kuenn beginning the next season. He underwent open-heart surgery in '76 to alleviate circulation problems, and Crohn's disease put him in the hospital for four months of the '77 season.
  • Circulation problems eventually took part of Kuenn's right leg in '80. It was amputated below the knee.
  • Coming off their first playoff appearance in '81, the Brewers expected to contend again in '82, but after beginning 23-24 and in fifth place in the AL East, seven games back, Manager Buck Rodgers was fired. Kuenn took over. Milwaukee won 20 of its next 27 games, hitting .294, 47 homers and averaging 6 1/2 runs a game. Harvey's Wallbangers were born.
  • The Brewers held off the late-charging Orioles on the last day of the season to secure the division flag, beat the Angels for the pennant but lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. The Brewers went on to hit 216 homers, 30 more than the nearest team, and finished 72-43.
  • Kuenn's managerial career would last only one full season. He was fired after going 87-75 in '83.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

COMMON VALOR: 1990 SCORE JEFF HUSON







Long before chrome technology, colored parallels and devious short-prints, card companies had to work a little harder to give collectors a nice surprise now and again.

Witness Jeff Huson's rookie card from the third Score baseball set. 

Despite being pimped with a Rookie stripe hugging the logo plate, Huson didn't amount to much with eight career home runs and a .234 batting average over 12 seasons.

Card No. 615 sure did, though, one just discovered tucked inside a plastic-cubed re-pack. Oriented vertically despite functioning as a horizontal, it's junk wax crack. Blue borders and red lettering pick up the Expos' colors perfectly; yet the peculiar yellow inner border and footer add zippy contrast.

Anyway you frame it, this card turns heads. 

Despite Huson's less-than-stellar numbers, he was a part of baseball history -- twice. He was the starting shortstop for the Rangers on June 11, 1990, when Nolan Ryan threw his seventh and last no-hitter. And he was the starting third baseman for the Orioles on Sept. 6, 1995, when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game.

Like Forrest Gump, Huson had a knack for finding himself at the right place at the right time. Indeed, life is like a re-pack cube: You never know what you're gonna get.

Friday, June 20, 2014

1960 TOPPS VADA PINSON

A POWER/SPEED DYNAMO.



ON HIS WAY TO ONE HECK OF A CAREER.



THE FRONT PAGE

  • Vada Pinson figured his calling in life would be as a musician. He was a talented trumpet player at McClymonds High School in Oakland and began playing baseball only at the urging of its coach, George Powles. This is the same coach that molded Frank Robinson and Curt Flood, so he knew talent when he saw it. And Pinson could hit the right notes on the diamond. He finished his 18-year career with 2,757 hits, 256 homers and 305 steals and twice led baseball in hits. He also hit 20-plus homers and stole 20-plus bases five times.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Certainly had a highlight-filled second year in 1959, didn't he?

PHOTO PLAY

  • During Pinson's rookie year in '58, Reds coach Jimmy Dykes thought he looked Hispanic and didn't speak English, which explained his quiet nature. So Dykes communicated with gestures until one day Pinson said: "Mr. Dykes, if there's something you want me to do with my stance, please tell me.''  

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Pinson was a high school teammate of Flood and would be reunited with him after being traded to the Cardinals after the '68 season.
  • The '59 season was Pinson's coming out party. He made the NL All-Star team for the first time, leading the majors in runs (131) and doubles (47), hitting 20 homers, driving in 84, stealing 21 bases and slashing .316/.371/.509.
  • Went 20/32 in '60 and again led baseball in doubles (37), earning another All-Star berth.
  • Finished third in the NL MVP voting in '61 for the NL champs, leading the majors in hits with 208 and hitting 16 homers with 87 RBI. He also hit .343, a career-high.
  • Struggled in the five-game World Series loss to the Yankees, going 2-for-22.
  • Although mild-mannered on the field, Pinson grew to dislike sportswriter Earl Lawson for what he considered negative reporting on his performance and slugged him in September '63. Lawson sued Pinson, and the case was settled out of court. Pinson said afterward it was the one thing from his career that he most regretted.
  • Had his best season in '63, leading the majors in hits (204), triples (14) while hitting 22 homers, driving in a career-high 106, stealing 27 bases and compiling an .861 OPS.
  • Led baseball in triples with 13 in '67, the last time he would lead the league in any category.
  • Leg injuries began slowing him down in the mid-'60s, so the Reds traded him to the Cards for Wayne Granger and Bobby Tolan after the '68 season.
  • Lasted only a season in St. Louis before being shipped to the Indians for Jose Cardenal.
  • Played for the Angels and Royals before retiring after the '75 season.
  • Faced Vida Blue seven times, with Vida holding Vada to two hits and striking him out twice. Vada did drive in a run off Vida, though, in '72.
  • Died from a stroke in '95 at age 57.

Monday, June 16, 2014

CARD ART: TONY GWYNN (1960-2014)



''Remember these two things:
 Play hard and have fun.''

Tony Gwynn




DESPITE THE WRINKLES, IT TWINKLES






When you're hell-bent on trying to complete a vintage set as I am with the 1965 Topps release, you can develop tunnel vision when going to card shows.

I broke free of that somewhat at the June show last weekend.




Oh, I still picked up a '65, this beauty of a Jim "Catfish'' Hunter rookie, but I got some other goodies from main man John Bucci's bargain box.

Headlining the magnificent seven is that '56 Topps Duke Snider. Upon first gaze, I thought the deep discount was a mistake but then saw the varicose veins. Merely a ding on a Lamborghini Balboni. 

And quickly sold.



I'm going to feature Vada Pinson in a future post and couldn't pass his near-perfect second-year '59.




Denny McLain is a favorite rebel of The Cardboard Examiner, so adding his classic '67 was easy.




I've been on the lookout for a '61 Dick Groat for a while now. My little Autos from the Archives project involves pairing the autographed card from the '12 Archives subset with the original. Groat's '61 is card No. 1 of that Topps set -- he was the '60 NL MVP for the world champs -- and you can see some rubber-band damage from being handled in that manner.




Finally, here are two leaders cards featuring Bob Veale and Jim O'Toole, and, of course, Sandy Koufax. Never a fan of the decapitation orientation, I still found that '62 irresistible, with the mustard yellow background and ketchup red shield hearkening to a summer cookout with the ballgame playing on a transistor.

I now will resume Pursuing the Pennants, one card closer at 86.5 percent complete.



Friday, June 13, 2014

ZERO WORSHIP



Ty Cobb is indeed my hero.

No, really, he is. And thank goodness the brain trust at Topps recognizes his remaining fans, all three of us. The company fresh out of new ideas for cards offers this 11x17 print from the just-released My Hero Collection. Cobb is the definition of heroic, a man whose racist and general sociopathic tendencies would've earned him various stays at some of the country's most notorious penal farms had he been born in 1986 instead of 1886. 

My hero is known to have assaulted people, at least once with a knife, because of their skin color, beat one handicapped man in the stands for heckling and found time to allegedly be in on a fix of a game.

Other than that, he was a swell guy. What's not to admire?

Then again, I've always had a soft spot for the misunderstood. I was the crackpot teen in the theater rooting for the shark in Jaws. I plead guilty for feeling empathy for Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. I still get misty when Commodus dies in the Colosseum at the end of Gladiator.

Obviously then, I'm all in on showing my devotion to The Cobber in the only way I know how: by forking over $49.99 for this piece of shit, er, art.

Why stop there, Topps? Why not offer a limited edition Chad Curtis Is My Hero teddy or a Lenny Dykstra Is My Hero ashtray or even a Steve Howe Is My Hero can koozie? 

It does feature My Hero Collection prints of Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Miguel Cabrera. And this just announced: Buy the 5x7 Hero "wax pack'' for $199.99, and get the recently created Don Zimmer print for free! Zim's barely stiff and Topps is already hustling his memory for a buck.


Pathetic.

This whole looking at athletes as heroes is truly sad. Yes, collecting baseball cards is a sort of hero worship, but nobody ought to read anything more into the person pictured than the stats on the back. That's his identity. Nothing more. Who knows what some of these guys are up to behind the numbers.

God only knows what Cobb did that wasn't seen or reported.

So who is a hero?

How about the average person acting without fear or hesitation to help a poor soul in distress, damn the consequences and ignorant of the plaudits. In other words, the anti-I don't want to get involved.

But baseball players?

Ty Cobb?

Heroes?

Don't buy it.