Sunday, October 12, 2014

Do you collect Delgado, Halladay, Wells or Green?

If you look at my wantlist, you'll see that I'm about 86% complete on my 1977-1994 Jays wantlist. I have added tabs for a few post 1994 years, but I'm struggling. My active collecting days basically stopped in 1994, and everything after that is very foreign to me. I didn't watch as much baseball from about 1994-2002, so I recognize the players and all that, but the cards themselves just don't resonate with me the same as, well, junk wax, I guess.

Anyway, I'm kicking around the idea of venturing into the post-1994 era by way of player collecting. I have been considering this for a while -- and I just don't see myself venturing too far from the Blue Jays. So I think I'm going to start a Joe Carter player collection.

Yesterday I went through my boxes of Jays doubles, non-Jays and just general cardboard choas in search of Joe Carter cards. I found a few. But what really surprised me was the number of Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells and Shawn Green cards I found. It's all base stuff and parallels from 1994-2005 or so (though I do have a Halladay GU I'd part with).

So the question is simple. Do you collect any of those dudes? And if you do, do you have any Joe Carter cards you'd consider letting go in exchange for Delgado, Halladay, Wells or Green?

Richard.

Monday, October 6, 2014

On this day in history...a milestone is reached!

A week and a half ago, I posted about finding the tough-to-find 1994 Blue Jays Oh Henry! set. That score, kicked off a bit of a spree that included a trade with Kevin over at The Card Papoy. Since October started, I have completed 10 different Toronto Blue Jays team sets.

On its own, no big deal. Except for one thing: I started October with 90 complete Blue Jays team sets. I'm not big on New Year Resolutions, so I didn't make one. But I did quietly set a goal of trying to have 100 complete Blue Jays team sets by the end of 2014. Thanks to a modern 'throw-in' from Kevin, set 100 arrived via air mail.

And yeah, it's a bit of a cheating victory, but you can't blame me. It's not my fault Topps only issued one Blue Jays card in the 2010 Topps This Day in History issue ;)

Anyway, here it is. Aaron Hill. What's especially awesome about this card, to me, is two-fold. One, it was nowhere on my radar, as I didn't know it existed. And two, the baseball highlight of 2010, for me, is a Yankees game I got to take in at Skydome (I'll never call it Rogers Centre) to mark my 30th birthday. In that game, I got to see Andy Pettitte pitch for the first time. I got to see Derek Jeter leadoff and later hit a homerun, and I got to see the Blue Jays win, walk-off style, by way of an Aaron Hill single with 1 out in the 14th.

Suffice it to say, I'm happy to have this card mark Team Set 100. Thanks Kevin!



Thanks for reading,

Richard.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Set Complete: 1994 Fire Safety

This is kind of a big deal. If you were to start collecting this series in 1984 and work your way through the years, the 1994 set (known to some as 1994 Blue Jays Oh Henry!) is, in my opinion, going to be the first challenging set. Everything to this point is readily available on eBay, kijiji, craigslist, whatever you want. In fact, over the years, I've received full sets just chucked into miscellaneous Blue Jays lots that I've bought or traded for. But not 1994. Until today, I had 5 of these cards in my collection -- and one of them was BJ Birdy. But like I said, that was until today.

As noted in an earlier post, I found this set online, nearly missed the opportunity, and then doubled back and managed to elude what would have been huge regret. Instead of looking back, however, we get to look forward. Check out this set. It is everything a regional set should be. Low-quality cardboard, low quality-printing, a design that just screams "love me or hate me" and bright colours. And then there's the stuff that makes these sets awesome. It's a point in time shot of the team. The hall-of-famers, the stars, the role players, the guys trying to cling to a career, the guys trying to start one. Managers and coaches, that have long-since ended their playing days, but can't bring themselves to walk away from the game. Guys who may not even have another baseball card. Honestly, as much as I really don't care for that yellow whatever-that-is, on blue, this set packs some punch. It was worth the hunt.

What's also interesting about this set, is what the cards don't tell you. When these were issued, Toronto fans were still high on Blue Jays baseball. We were champions of the world, twice over. Olerud, Molitor and Alomar did something that hadn't happened in a hundred years. We had guys like Carlos Delgado, Alex Gonzalez and Shawn Green (though he's not in this set). The future was bright.

Little did anyone know that the season would end in a strike. And that when that happened, our 55-60 record would only be good enough for 3rd in the AL East, 9.5 games back of second (16 games back of first). Little did anyone know that twenty years later, we'd still not have tasted post season baseball again. There I go looking back again. I'm not supposed to do that.

So here's to looking forward. The great thing about baseball is that there's always next year. And the great thing about technology is that just because the Blue Jays aren't involved doesn't mean I can't still watch some damn good playoff baseball.

And I get to do so knowing that I am no longer going to need to scour the Internet for a 1994 Blue Jays Oh Henry team set.

Anyone know where I can find the entire 1995 Blue Jays Oh Henry team set? ;)

Thanks for reading,

Richard.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This is what awesome looks like.

Arrived home from work today, to find a padded envelope with a big ol' Blue Jays sticker on the side. That, ladies and gentleman, is how to get my attention. If American Express, Bell, Citi and all those other corporations that mail me their trash want me to actually read it, they should speak to MLB and license the logos. Put those on whatever it is your sending me, and I guarantee, I'll fall for it at least a couple times. But I digress...

Today's arrival was from none other than Kevin over at The Card Papoy. And folks, let me tell you, this guy knows how to put a trade package together. A few weeks back I sent him some late 70's and early 80's stuff off of his wantlist. I may have snuck a Delgado or something in there, but really, nothing too amazing. What does he send in return? A spectrum of awesome. Alomar, Carter, Delgado, Wells, McGriff, Bell, Bautista, Lind, Hill, Iorg and more! And that's not even the end of it.

The guy put to rest 6 different Blue Jays team sets for me. SIX! That's so much awesomeness I can't even fit it all into one post. More will be coming. In the mean time, just take a moment to appreciate those cards...a little bit of everything.

Thanks Kevin, totally awesome trade package!

Cheers,

Richard.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reasons to love regionals #3: The thrill of the hunt

When it comes to Jays team sets, nothing takes me back like the Fire Safety and Oh Henry! sets of the 80s and 90s. They are flimsy, they are low quality, and there are often cards cut to different sizes. There's always a healthy dose of guys you've never heard of that will never actually play an official game with the team, and you can always count on a few guys in awkward poses in ballparks you can't possibly recognize.

And despite how awful they sound, I think they are awesome. My guess is that many people agree with the above description, and for that reason, want nothing to do with these cards. I'm guessing for that reason, they weren't kept, and got chucked in the garbage. As a result, some of them are incredibly tough to track down. But the thrill of the hunt is just part of the fun!

Every now and again, I'll hit Google or eBay and search for 'blue jays fire safety' or 'blue jays oh henry'. Other times, I'll slot in a specific year, hoping to find one of the sets I'm missing. Often these searches are fruitless. I get a pile of past auctions, trading card / checklist sites or a random PC wantlist that is after a certain card. There's also a plethora of 5-year-old forum posts saying "I found these cards, what are they worth?" But weeding through that stuff is fun, because it's part of the challenge; not letting all that static interfere with a possible hit.

This past weekend I decided to hit the internet for a bit and just search for some of those sets. My searches turned up a craigslist ad for a 1994 Blue Jays Oh Henry set. The listing was from early August. I've never trusted craiglist, so I didn't bite. And then a few hours later, I changed my mind. This is the first time I've seen this set for sale in its entirety. Only one problem: I couldn't find the listing again! Eventually, I gave up, half annoyed that I didn't bite the first time, and half annoyed that I just couldn't find the ad again.

 Later in the day, I went searching again. I'm sure I was using the same search terms for the third time in a row, and I generally always use Google, so I know it wasn't like I had forgotten which search engine to use. Only this time, luck was on my side. Somehow, I turned up a kijiji ad from earlier in September for a listing right in Ontario. It read almost identically to the craiglist ad, so I'm confident it's the same person. I immediately contacted them, and what'ya know! Cards were still available, we struck a deal, and they are in the mail as we speak.

Now, I hate to mark these cards off of my wantlist before they arrive, but in mind, that's exactly what I've done. This is a big score. It's a tough set to locate, it almost slipped away, and somehow came back. I'll post some scans in a dedicated post when the cards arrive, but I'm pretty jazzed right now, and that seemed like a good reason for a post. Finding these compares to earlier in the year when I tracked down an even more difficult Blue Jays regional from 2002.

Anyway, this story sums up another reason I love regionals. They are available enough to be cheap, but just difficult enough to be a challenge. And I really enjoy the thrill of the hunt!


Thanks for reading,

Richard.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Inaugurals: Alan Ashby

The truth is, when I think of Alan Ashby, I think of the Houston Astros. Not because that's where he spent most of his career, but because one of my first memories of owning a baseball card is his 1988 Topps card. I no longer own that card, but seeing an image of the card instantly brings memories streaming back of a stack of not more than 50 cards securely grouped with just about the fattest rubber band available. Ah, the good ol' days.

It wouldn't be until many years later that I realized Alan Ashby played for the Blue Jays and was, in fact, part of a distinct group known as The Inaugurals. That's right, folks, finally, another installment of the series!

And it wouldn't be until 10 minutes ago that I realized Alan Ashby started his major league career with the Cleveland Indians. That's right. After four years in the minors, Ashby debuted with the Indians on July 3, 1973. In that bout, he entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth and caught a scoreless inning. Alan would start the next day and collect his first major league hit in his first a bat.

Ashby remained with the Indians through the 1976 season. In 1977, he was with Toronto, appearing in 124 games. Offensively, he hit .210 with 2 HRs and 29 RBI. In 1978, Alan split catching duties with Rick Cerone, and ended appearing in only 81 games. Despite the reduced playing time, Ashby matched his RBI total of 1977 while bumping his BA to .261 and his HR count to 9. That off-season (November 27th, 1978 to be exact), his playing days with Toronto were officially numbered as he was traded to the Astros for Joe Cannon, Pedro Hernandez and Mark Lemongello (total aside here, but if you want some interesting reading, search Google for Mark Lemongello).

Mr. Ashby would go on to play 10 seasons with Houston before retiring from baseball. In 2012 he was selected as the starting catcher of the Astros' all time 25-man roster (2012 marked their 50th anniversary as a franchise).

In his post-playing days, Ashby did a little bit of managing various minor league teams, and even held a spot as the bullpen coach with the Astros in 1997. In 1998 he started doing colour commentary in Houston. In 2007 he joined Rogers Communication to do colour commentary and play-by-play for Blue Jays broadcasts. In this bloggers humble opinion, Alan Ashby is among the great Blue Jays play-by-play guys. Unfortunately, he resigned his position in January of 2013 to return to Houston. Clearly he sees himself as much an Astro as I do ;)

Thanks for reading.

Richard.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vive les Blue Jays!

Well, a five game losing streak has all but sealed the Blue Jays fate in 2014. I will admit that I have all but given up on this season, and haven't been watching many games lately. That hasn't dampened my spirits about watching baseball, though. I'm still very much looking forward to the playoffs.

And that DEFINITELY hasn't dampened my spirits for collecting Blue Jays cards. Today's post is brought to you thanks to some generosity from Montreal. Stephane found my blog and was able to knock a handful of cards off of my wantlist. It should be noted that he completed my 1991 Leaf team set, but the highlight of what he sent was some 1992 Nabisco Jays cards. These cards strike a chord with me -- I clearly remember chasing them as a kid. Thanks to the 3 Stephane sent, I am down to needing only 7 more.

Keeping with French connections, I encourage you to take a moment to head over and check out a new baseball card blog: http://thecardpapoy.blogspot.ca/. Kevin is based in France and just getting back into the hobby after a hiatus. What's also noteworthy is that Kevin is a Blue Jays collector! If you haven't checked out his blog, I encourage you to.

And lastly, if I'm going to plug blogs of Jays collectors, you really need to check out http://30aweekhabit.blogspot.ca/. If you haven't been by Robert's site in a while, you should head there now. Since the Spring, he has been holding a March Madness style elimination bracket to figure out what Topps set to collect next. The entire series has created some interesting matchups and generated a lot of interesting comments and voting. 1959 is pitted against 1974 in the finals. If you hurry there soon, you'll make it in time to help decide the finals!

And to both of you, Kevin and Robert, if you're reading this watch your mailboxes. Went to the PO today and sent you each some Jays cards.

Vive les Blue Jays!

Richard.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Going for the gold!

One challenge with collecting cards and living in Canada is shipping. It doesn't take much to find a card -- or cards -- on eBay that I'd love to add to my collection. But shipping can be a killer. I can't stand the idea of paying fifty cents for a card and then having to drop seven bucks to ship it!

But every once in a while, luck strikes. I find a seller that has a bunch of what I'm looking for and is willing to combine -- or better yet cap -- shipping at some fixed amount. Better still is when that seller is located in Canada making shipping cheaper AND leaving a border-crossing out of the equation.

That's exactly what happened a week or so ago. I found a bunch of 1994 Collector's Choice Jays cards on eBay from one seller with very reasonable shipping rates. So I scooped up about 10 different auctions -- all at the opening bid -- and knocked 9 golds and the last 6 silvers off of my list. They just arrived today, so add this to the fact that the Jays won that 19-inning marathon yesterday, and suffice it to say that I'm a happy fella! Here's hoping I didn't just jinx the Seattle series that starts tonight.

Anyway, off to binder these. My silver signature team set is now complete and my Gold set is down to needing just 13 cards!

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Answering a hypothetical question

Well, I've finally done it. After months of silence on this blog, I've figured out what comes next. And all it took was an answer to a hypothetical question.

For some time now I've been toiling with how to proceed with my collection. I haven't stopped collecting mind you, nor have I stopped following a lot of other blogs (shameless plug, if you haven't checked out Robert's Topps tournament over at $30 a week habit, you really should), but while rebuilding my (lost) wantlist a few months ago I became overwhelmed with trying to checklist all of the different issues that have been released since I collected as a kid (that was 1994). I kinda put everything on hold because I just didn't know what to do.

And then I decided to answer a hypothetical question posed by The Lost Collector. I encourage you to read the post yourself (LC is doing some good work over on his blog, you really should check it out too), but to paraphrase: If I can only keep one box of cards what do I keep?

In response to a hypothetical question, I commented that I felt I could get my Blue Jays Collection (less any post-1994 cards) into a 3200-count box. I've decided that's what I'm actually going to do. Now, I may not actually store the cards in a box, as I may elect to keep it in binders, but I am going to limit the collection to 3200 cards.

And just like that, simply commenting on a blog, it all seems to clear: Just don't worry about anything post-1994! I mean, I will probably still pick a card here or there (my wantlist *does* have some post-1994 stuff on it), but I'm not going to fret over all the sets, subsets, parallels, refractors, etc. If I like the looks of a card, I'll collect it. If I don't, then I won't. Really, pretty simple. I have no idea why there was such a mental hurdle to clear in making that decision, but it was. And now it's cleared.

So there we go. Some direction is back. Hypothetically.

Hypothetically, because I'm still going to continue my pursuit of a PSA 1977 OPC Jays set, am still going to continue my prewar PC, and am likely going to pick a set to build as a long-term project soon. But that's another story ;)

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Complete: 1991 Upper Deck Final

My earliest Upper Deck memories are collecting the 1991 set.  I realize the 1989 set was *the* Upper Deck set to collect, and in due time it did get put on a pedestal by the entire neighbourhood.  But for a while in 1991, it was all about the 1991 set.  I actually abandoned a 1991 Donruss set pursuit for 1991 Upper Deck.  Everything about the set was awesome.

Fast-forward 23 years, and here I am still chasing parts of it.  Or at least I was until recently.  Even in the 90's I knew about Upper Deck Final Edition.  I knew about it because of the all-star card commemorating Roberto Alomar's participation in the mid-summer classic held right in Toronto.  But what I didn't know until just a few months ago was that there are other Blue Jays cards featured in Final Edition.  Since I am still quite fond of this set, it could go without saying that I was thrilled with this discovery.  But that would almost be an understatement.  Why?  Because of WHO is representing the Blue Jays in this set.  For starters, Candido has a 1991 card with the Blue Jays!  That's awesome.  This guy was one of my favourites growing up.  To the point that I have considered many times doing a Candy Maldonado player collection.  And while the pose of his card is a bit unorthodox for a baseball card, that's kinda why it's awesome.  And again, it's a 1991 Upper Deck card of Candy Maldonado with the Blue Jays!

And speaking of awesome, how about this Ed Sprague?  I think this guy instantly went from complete unknown to every kid's favourite player with one swing of the bat in 1992 (despite appearing in 61 games in 1991).  You know the one...9th inning, down by a run to the Braves and facing a 2-0 deficit in the series.  That eventual game winner, was rated the 32nd greatest home run of all-time by ESPN.  So I didn't actually check, but I'm guessing this has to be one of Sprague's earliest cards with the Blue Jays (ie. not including all the minor league issues).  And now to state the other obvious reason this card is awesome:  The fact that it actually shows Sprague catching.  He appeared in all of 2 games as a catcher in 1991 (according to baseball-reference.com).  Oh, and while I'm talking up awesomeness and Ed Sprague, according to wikipedia, he's the only baseball player to win Olympic Gold, the College World Series and the MLB World Series.  Pretty
good work if you can get it ;)

And though I think I've exceeded my quota for use of the word 'awesome' in this post, I think honourable mentions should go to Tom Candiotti and Derek Bell who also make appearances in this set along with the aforementioned Alomar All-Star card.  What a great set.


Thanks for reading!

Richard.




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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reasons to love regionals #2: Craig McMurtry

So first things first.  Who the heck is Craig McMurtry?

Craig McMurtry was a RHP from 1983-1995.  During that time he pitched for the Atlanta Braves, Texas Ranges and Houston Astros.  Let me repeat that.  From 1983-1995,  Craig McMurtry pitched for the Braves, Rangers and Astros.

So why is he pictured with the Blue Jays in this 1987 Fire Safety issue?  Well, that's the beauty of Regionals.

Craig McMurtry was traded to the Blue Jays in 1987 but never actually appeared in a game with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Instead he split his time between the Blue Jays AAA (Syracuse) and AA (Knoxville) clubs in 1987 before being granted free agency and signing with the Texas Rangers for 1988.

Want a few more interesting facts about Craig McMurtry?

Well, did you know that in 1983, he finished 7th in Cy Young voting and 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting?

Or that in 1986, he became the first pitcher to give up a major league home run to Barry Bonds?

Or that he's currently the baseball coach at Temple JC in Temple, Texas?

And all that on a blog about Toronto Blue Jays baseball cards about a guy that never actually played for the Blue Jays.

Just one more reason to love regionals.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Complete: 1989 Upper Deck

What is there to be said about 1989 Upper Deck that hasn't already been said?  I mean, this set literally defined premium cards.  Spectacular photography, the holograms, tamper proof packs, front and back colour photos.  All of these things alone would have been enough for them to make an impression.  But the decision to make Ken Griffey Jr the face of the set was a stroke of genius (and luck?).  Twenty-five years after the initial release, people are still busting packs in search of Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards.  And as awesome as that card is, it's not the whole story.  There's so much more to the set.  I guess that's what makes it so awesome.  And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I break away from only collecting Blue Jays cards to pursue the full set.

In the mean time, let's talk some about the Blue Jays in this set, starting with Cecil Fielder.  Fielder appears with the Blue Jays in this set but didn't actually play for the Blue Jays in 1989.  After 4 seasons with Toronto, Cecil Fielder's contract was purchased by the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Central League.  Of course, Fielder would return to the Majors a year later and club 51 homers with the Tigers, becoming the 18th player to hit that milestone.  The feat was so significant that Upper Deck issued a card commemorating it in their 1991 set.  It's crazy to think that from 1920-1990, a player hit 50 home runs in a season 18 times.  In the 24 seasons since, it's happened 25 times.  Included in that list, by the way, is the aforementioned Ken Griffey Jr. who executed the feat in 1997 and 1998.

On the topic of home runs, let's shift the conversation to Junior Felix.  Remember this guy?  Like Cecil Fielder, he had a pretty short tenure with the Blue Jays, but he did some memorable things.  Consider these three events:

May 4, 1989: Hits the first pitch of his major league career for a homerun; the second Blue Jays rookie to hit a homer in their first MLB at-bat.

June 2, 1989: Playing the Red Sox at Fenway, he hit an inside-the-park grand slam off of pitcher Bob Stanley.  The Jays would go on to win 7-2.

June 4, 1989: Down 10-0 in the 7th inning, the Jays would come back scoring 2 in the 7th, 4 in the 8th and 5 in the 9th.  Boston would score one in the home half of the 9th.  Junior hit a 2-run homer in the 11th to go ahead for good, completing the comeback.  This was, and may still be, the greatest single game comeback of all time.


So there you go.  Just a small glimpse into what will likely continue to be seen an an epic set.  One that some day I just might build.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Inaugurals: Dave McKay

Time to blog continues to be tough to find.  This hasn't stopped me from checking eBay regularly, which is good, because this week alone, I added 4 cards to my 1977 O-Pee-Chee Team set.  So with baseball cards on the brain, and some rare spare time on my hands, I figure the time is right for the next edition of The Inaugurals.

In 1977, if I counted correctly, there were 9 active Canadians in Major League Baseball.  Seriously, nine.  NINE!  Almost certainly my math is wrong.  I'm not double-checking but you can, if you want to.  But I digress.  This post isn't about my suspect math.  It's about the rarity that is a Canadian-born Major Leaguer.  That doesn't happen often, so they get noticed (in Canada).  Even if I miscounted by 10, I think my point still stands.  And even now, with an increase in the number of Canadians in the majors it recent years, it gets noticed.  The only thing that gets noticed more is when one of those Canadian-born players ends up on the Blue Jays (or had ended up on the now defunct Expos).  At least that's the case now.  Even the most casual Blue Jays fan knows of Brett Lawrie.  Or Matt Stairs.  Or Rob Ducey.  Or Dave McKay.

Okay, so there probably aren't as many that know Dave McKay as there are that know Brett Lawrie.  But there should be.  Why?  Because he was the first.  And because even if you discard his playing career, this guy has had one hell of a baseball career.  More on that later.

In the Blue Jays first ever regular season game, batting 8th and starting at 3B was Dave McKay.  The truth is that 1977 was before my time.  Nonetheless, I assume McKay's citizenship alone was enough to earn him a strong fan following.  Going 2-for-4 with an RBI in game one in franchise history probably didn't hurt his fan club membership either.

Oh, and speaking of firsts, it should be noted that while he didn't start his career with the Blue Jays, Dave McKay started off his major league career with a bang.  Yep, you guessed it.  First major league at bat, first major league home run; the first, and only, Canadian to perform such a feat.  That was August 22, 1975 while McKay was with the Twins, and on that day, facing the Detroit Tigers.

Dave McKay would remain with the Blue Jays through 1979, playing 287 games with the club, likely leaving with every Blue Jays record "... for a Canadian."  After being released by the Jays, McKay would play 3 years with the Oakland Athletics before moving into a coaching role with the A's.  And this is where I go back to what I said earlier -- if being the only Canadian to lead off his career with a homer isn't enough, and if being the first ever Canadian to take the field for the Blue Jays isn't enough, then being one hell of a successful coach should be enough of a reason to know who Dave McKay is.

2014 marks Dave McKay's 31st consecutive year in coaching.  What can I say about that?  Flat out, you have to be a phenomenal coach to have that kind of staying power.  And if you don't think so, Dave McKay has a little bit of World Series hardware (1989 Athletics, 2006 & 2011 Cardinals), not to mention 6 pennants and a son that played in the Majors that say you're wrong.  Sure you have to be around the right people to win that much, but you have to be the right people to be around them too.  And you are obviously one of the right people to be around for so long.

So here's to Dave McKay.  The first Canadian to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays, and clearly a deserving member of Canada's Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Friday, May 9, 2014

PATP & Topps hookup for a sweet 2000th post contest!

Title kinda says it all.

Topps donated a sweet contest prize to celebrate PATP's 2000th post.

You should head on over there and congratulate him!

Richard.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Inaugurals: Bill Singer

So, I suppose if I was really going to do this properly, then the inaugural Inaugurals post would speak about the first player ever to be named to the Blue Jays roster.  Or, I'd consider speaking about Roy Hartsfield as the first Manager.  Sorry to disappoint the idealists out there, but that's not how this is going to start.  Don't read this as a slight to any of the work -- or the people doing the work -- in preparation of fielding a team, but for me, it really all comes down to game time.  All that hard work, all the negotiating, all the hiring and organizing and whatever else goes on behind closed doors, and even the workouts and infield drills and batting practice culminates in a game being played.  And that first game doesn't start until the fist pitch is thrown.  By Bill Singer.

And so it begins.  The first in a series, that, I suppose, will eventually consist of 27 posts (assuming I am able to accomplish my goal) discussing each of the players featured in O-Pee-Chee's inaugural Toronto Blue Jays team set.

Of course, now we have to make a decision.  Do we want to speak about the first pitch of the Blue Jays first Spring training game, or the first pitch of the Blue Jays first regular season game?  The convenient thing about that is that it doesn't matter what your answer is.  Either way, my answer is Bill Singer.

On March 11, 1977 the Blue Jays hosted the New York Mets in Dunedin, where Bill Singer faced Jerry Koosman.  According to this post, only 1988 witnessed the game, in which, the Blue Jays defeated the Mets 3-1.  The game didn't start off so well, with leadoff hitter Lee Mazilli taking Singer deep for an early 1-0 lead.  The Jays would come back in the fifth to tie the game, and go ahead on a 2-run double in the 8th by Sam Ewing.

As for the regular season opener, that was April 7, 1977 at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.  Once again, Bill Singer got the start, this time against the Chicago White Sox.  And once again, Singer gave up a first inning home run (according to http://www.retrosheet.org).  After a rough second inning, Singer would settle down and pitch into the 5th, where the bullpen would take over.

Image courtesy of BlueJayHunter.com
The Jays eventually won this game 9-5, but the most interesting story of the day may actually have been the weather.  It seems fitting that baseball would be welcomed to Canada by way of a snowfall, though I can't imagine it was overly fun to play in.  Until this year, I found it hard to imagine snowfall impacting a regular season MLB baseball game, but with the winter we had -- and seeing what happened not so long ago when a Blue Jays game in Minnesota was snowed-out, I can fully understand it!


Anyway, back to Bill Singer.  The man to throw out the first pitch in Toronto's inaugural Spring training game and their inaugural regular season game would pitch his way to a 2-8 record (in 12 starts) before being shut down in mid-July for the remainder of the season.  He missed the entire 1978 season and was released in December of that year.  Bill Singer retired as player and went on to work with various clubs in scouting and consulting roles.

So the man who now holds the distinction of throwing the first pitch(es) in a Blue Jays game had a very short tenure with the team.   According to numerous sources, had Pat Gillick had his way, Singer's tenure would have been even shorter.  As stated on torontoist.com:

Amongst the veterans, the most well-known player was likely Bill Singer, a two-time all-star and 20-game winner, coming off a down season in 1976 and hoping to reestablish himself. Team executive Pat Gillick, to whom Bavasi had delegated many of the decisions concerning player personnel, wanted to pursue an offer by the New York Yankees to acquire Singer in exchange for a pitching prospect named Ron Guidry. Bavasi vetoed the deal, believing Singer to be one of the few known names on the club and thus desirable from a marketing perspective. Singer’s major league career would be finished after the 1977 season, whereas Guidry would go on to win 170 games for the Yankees and appear in four all-star games.
But that, as they say, is the beauty of hindsight.  The only thing can be said now is that Bill Singer, in the context of The Inaugurals, owns the distinction of having thrown out the first pitch for the Blue Jays in Spring training and in the regular season.  And that's all there is to it.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.
 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coming soon: The Inaugurals

As noted here, I am trying to complete a 1977 O-Pee-Chee Blue Jays team set all in PSA 8.  I'm actually not one to collect a lot of graded cards.  I have a small prewar player collection, about half of which is graded, but I don't actively seek graded cards.  And I have never sent anything in to be graded, either.

Now this isn't to say I have any issues with grading or grading companies.  The truth is, I simply don't want to pay for grading or the shipping involved.  When I buy cards, I focus on the card.  If it's graded, cool.  If not, that's fine too.  With prewar cards, depending on the issue, I may *prefer* it to be graded if I am not sure about judging the authenticity, but if the price is right, I don't care either way.

So how did we get here, then?

Good question.

Back before I started this blog, I was looking for some inspiration.  I had rediscovered my previous Blue Jays collection, and was kicking around the idea of restarting that collection.  I maintain a prewar player collection, and add to it occasionally, but also liked the idea of something that I be more active with, and build on a slightly cheaper scale.  I think how I focus my Jays collection will continue to evolve, but that's another story.  We're talking about graded cards here, I think.

So while looking for that inspiration I learned that the Jays team set in 1977 OPC set differs from the Topps set.  Thanks to The Shlabotnik Report for the enlightenment.  That got me thinking about collecting the 1977 OPC set (I already have the Topps set).  But I wanted to do something with it to make it more challenging.  And actually, I was, and still am, considering some way of framing and displaying the set once it's complete.

That's where the desire for grading comes in.  Seeking the cards all in a given grade will provide a bit of a challenge.  Not so challenging that it's impossible to complete (tried that once...thought it'd be cool to collect an N172 Old Judge Toronto team set...it's only 3 cards after all), but challenging enough that it's not just about throwing out some cash to buy the cards.  So a quick look on eBay to get some idea of relative pricing, and a quick look on the PSA population reports to see if every card exists in any particular grade, and here we are.

The entire 27-card team set exists in PSA 8.  The pop reports when I looked did not have the entire team set available in 7, 9 or 10.  Now, that doesn't guarantee that I will track down every card in an 8, either, but there's at least a chance.  And since I don't want to be sending cards away to PSA hoping for specific grades, that counts for something.  Plus, the price point is right for me.  A PSA 10 will easily run $50 a card.  At that price, I can be adding cards to my prewar collection instead (that's actually what I'd rather do if I'm spending $50 on cards in one shot).  Even a 9 is closer to $20 than $10.  A PSA 8, however, is generally under $10, and in many cases only $6 or $7.  That's right in my wheel house.

So what happens next?

Right.  I did title this post 'coming soon', didn't I?

Part of the draw of a challenging project is to draw out the acquisitions to afford time in between each pickup to research the players I've added.  I'm familiar with some of these guys, but others I've never heard of.  As inaugural members of the Toronto Blue Jays, I figure many of these guys have to have been the first to do something in the Jays organization.  And I'm sure many of them have interesting stories of how they ended up on an expansion franchise.

So with the Inaugurals series, I'm hoping to feature a particular card that I've added to my 1977 OPC Set, and research and share any interesting stuff that I've learned about the player/card in question.  That's assuming I can find any off-beat interesting information about anyone.  In adding a research component to this project, I figure it'll make it more interesting, but also give me another way to enjoy my collection by other ways than just adding to it.

We'll see.  Stay tuned, though, and if I don't crack under the pressure I'm adding by announcing this, I'll have the first few posts out in short order.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Playing favourites

Despite the fact that this card is a post-playing-days issue, it is among my favourite Joe Carter cards.  Why?  For me, it is just has so much going for it.  It is a fairly busy card, but all of the elements seem to be in balance.  The image of Carter is a classic; the bat chip worked into the year is a clever idea, and Joe Carter has an excellent autograph (admittedly, the one on my card is a little smoother) so it's a great touch.  And it obviously marks a significant event in Blue Jays history.  It also kinda serves as a placeholder in my collection.

My scanner doesn't scan this card well; image courtesy of eBay.
This is a card that I wanted for a very long time.  I wasn't willing to pay much for it though, so I watched auction after auction end on eBay without ever bidding.  And then one day I found a BIN for all of $10.  I didn't even hesitate.  Actually, I wasn't even actively collecting at the time (and can't explain why I was even looking) but I knew it was a fair price and bought it.  I'm happy to have it.

The bat in this card is the closest thing I've got any kind of memorabilia of the Blue Jays.  Not because I don't have any interest in memorabilia, mind you.  The real truth is that if I had the money (and could convince my wife to let me spend it!) I'd go after one of those World Series player trophies from either 1992 or 1993.  For me, that would be a collection defining piece.  If I ever obtained one, actually, it'd probably mark the end of collecting for me.  I'd never be able to top it.

Of course, the last time one of those trophies sold, it was Joe Carter's 1993 trophy and it went for around $15K.  So I think I'm safe to assume that, barring a lottery win, I'll never be getting one.  At $10, this card serves as a perfect placeholder.  Especially considering the odds of winning the lottery.  They're stacked against you if you actually play the lottery.  Since I don't, it's good that I'm happy owning this card ;)

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

JustCommons JustCompletes 19 team sets

Have been very short on time lately, but have recently received my first order with JustCommons.com.  I couldn't be happier.  In fact, if we just kinda brush past my complete inability to accurately checklist my collection (read: I ordered 6 cards I already have and one card that doesn't even depict a Toronto Blue Jay), the entire transaction went flawlessly.

Because JustCommons has $5 flat-rate shipping to Canada, too, I was able to order a lot of cards and not pay much for shipping.  With the way postal rates continue to rise, it was a refreshing change.

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I modified the links across the top of this site.  Gone are the individual wantlists for Topps, Upper Deck and Regionals, and instead I replaced those three with a single wantlist (that is a Google Doc) and a list of the team sets I've completed so far.  I'm keeping track of that list as I am aiming to have 100 complete team sets by the end of the year.

My latest haul brings me to 80; most of which are from between 1977-1994.  I have also fully updated my wantlist for those years.  As time allows, I am preparing/updating my wantlists for 1995-present.  This is a monumental task, but once it's done, I'll be able to catalogue the 2000 or so unique cards I have from that time period that I have yet to checklist.

In my next few posts I'll feature some of the sets that I was able to recently complete.  I'm pretty excited about some of them.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten homer game

image courtesy of www.tradingcarddb.com
Just finished my morning ritual of watching the MLB.com fastcast.  Pittsburgh, playing in Cincinnati, combined for 10 homers last night in a game that was suspended in the bottom of the 6th due to rain (game scheduled to resume today).  According to the box score, Pittsburgh has six of those homers and Cincinnati has the other 4.

If I had to bet, I'd say that having to pause the game will change the pace, but I'll still be keeping on eye on the game to see if either team can keep the home run momentum going.  Perhaps one of these teams will actually threaten the Toronto Blue Jays record.

And what record is that, you ask?  Why, it's the one featured card #3 from the 1993 Donruss McDonald's Blue Jays set.  On September 14, 1987, while hosting the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays wrapped out 10 home runs en route to an 18-3 beat down.

image courtesy of www.tradingcarddb.com
Leading the charge was Ernie Whitt, who went 3-for-3, with 3 home runs accounting for 5 RBIs.  George Bell and Rance Mulliniks each hit 2, and Lloyd Moseby, Rob Ducey and Fred McGriff rounded out the barrage with a dinger each.

Getting the win that day was Jim Clancy, who allowed 2 earned runs over 7 innings (including a solo homer to Mike Hart in the 3rd), striking out 6 and walking 1.  On the other end of the box score was Ken Dixon, who was saddled with the loss in 1.2 innings!

Anyway, we'll see what happens today when Pittsburgh and Cincinnati resume their game.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Can we just get on with playoffs already?

Don't get me wrong, I love baseball.  As a Canadian that is NOT a hockey fan, it takes a long time for the calendar to wrap back around to Spring Training after the World Series ends.

HOWEVER, as of right now, Toronto has sole possession of first place in the AL East, and none of the other teams in the division are even in a Wild Card spot.  Only four times since the Wild Card was introduced has it (or one of them) not gone to an AL East team.

Plus, I'm not brimming with confidence that Toronto is going to be 'hanging around' contention for much of this season.  Let's just get on with playoffs already!

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Complete: 1991 Leaf Studio

My first encounter with Leaf Studio was the 1993 set. Until 4-5 years ago, I didn't even know there were earlier editions of this set.  I'm glad there is, though.  1993 Studio is another of many favourite sets of mine.  We'll discuss it in a future post (soon, hopefully) once I wrap up that team set.

In the mean time, we can talk about the 1991 edition now.  At only 264 cards, this set is easily completable.  And with such a simple, but pleasant design, the small effort well worth it.  These cards boast some excellent black & white photography.  Based on the backdrop of these photos -- and, as the name might imply -- I think it's safe to assume these shots were all taken in studio.  The photos themselves are bordered in a soft burgundy, and that border contains the players name in white.  The entire card has a bit of a gloss to it.  The best way to describe this gloss would be to compare it to an actual printed photo.  Anyone old enough to remember actually taking pictures with cameras (as opposed to smart phones) and having to get film developed would understand what I mean.  This set of cards is printed with the photo quality of a series of  photographs.

From obscurity a few years ago, this set now sits among my favourites.  I'm glad to have it completed.  I already had the Mookie at left, as well as Roberto Alomar in this set.  The eight missing cards came out of the huge trade package from Rich Klein mentioned a few posts back.

And now I need to go check out 1992 Leaf Studio.  I assume it was released in 1992, but honestly, I have no idea what it looks like!

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A player to be named...now?

Yes, now.  Who is your favourite currently active player?

Name that player over at Big 44 Sports Cards, and you could win!

Good luck!

Richard.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Where to draw the line with team sets

So I'm finally starting to get a handle on all of my Blue Jays cards.  I've got three 2-1/2" binders all but filled (with spaces left for missing cards).  One has all Topps base and update cards from 1977-1994, one is entirely regional issues from 1984-2002 (Oh Henry, Fire Safety, Nabisco, Dempster's, McDonald's, etc) and one starts out as Upper Deck and ends with random sets that don't fit anywhere else.  Everything else is in boxes while I sort and catalog.  Eventually, I want it all in binders.

There's no doubt I'll collect all the base sets from Topps, Donruss and the like, but there are also a whole lot of what I'll call fringe issues that I'm just not sure what to do with.  I'm talking about some of the late 1990's and early 2000's issues where there are so many different insert and parallel sets that my head spins just looking at them.  Some of them are quite interesting.  Some of them are not.

After staring at all of these cards for a while, I'll tell myself that I'm not going to pursue this or that set.  1998 Pacific Online is a good example.  It's an odd-looking issue.  It's not something I collected while it was actively being released.  I don't have much of a connection to it.  The vertical 'online' along the left side is weird.  That white banner across the top looks like the message that my cable provider uses to interrupt my web surfing to warn me that I'm nearing the limit of my download capacity for the month.  Just on principle, I can't bring myself to visit that bigleaguers.com url.  I just want to find the close button to click it so that white banner goes away.  But you get the point; the set simply doesn't resonate with me.

But it's a Blue Jays card.  And it's Carlos Delgado.  And I already own it.  Oh, what to do.  I can't see myself wanting to checklist and chase that issue, but I also can't see myself getting rid of it.  Especially not when it's Carlos Delgado.  But what is one to do?

How do you define the parameters around your team collecting?


Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Complete: 1989 Bowman Toronto Blue Jays

Ernie Whitt (photo courtesy of eBay)
Well, I am not even close to done sorting out the 5000-card box that I recently received in trade, but I am making slow progress.  One thing that is done is my 1989 Bowman Toronto Blue Jays team set.  Of course this is kind of cheating.  Thanks to the non-standard height of these cards, I was able to easily pluck them out of one of the rows.  Turns out the entire team set was there, so the Jimmy Key and Tom Lawless that I already had are now available for trade.

This is an interesting set to me.  I've always liked the cards -- partially because of their non-standard size -- but always hesitated to try to collect them individually.  Entirely because of their non-standard size.  Once upon a time I owned a factory set, but never took it out of the box to put into binders because the only pages I'm aware of that can hold them would require every card to be sideways.  Of course now I'm going to have to do that anyway just to be able to "binder" this team set with the rest of my cards.  C'est la vie...

The photos in this set obviously don't have the gloss to compete with their Upper Deck counterpart, but I actually like the kinda 'flat' photos.  If you don't try to compare them and simply look at the photos for what's in them, they're quite good, in my opinion.  There's a decent variety of poses, but they are all very simple.  I mentioned in an earlier post, that I like cards that show an action shot with the fans and the field/stadium in the background.  This set has that going for it.  And while that stuff is visible in the photos, Bowman blurred them out to make sure the player on the card is what is in focus.  I think it works.  The signature on the bottom of each card is a design element that I don't think had been on a card since 1980 Topps; it doesn't do much for me, but it doesn't detract from the card either.  The white border is a standard element on Bowman again in 1990 and 1991 (not sure about 1992 without looking, to be honest, and am just too lazy to look.  Hell, I didn't even scan these images myself, I ripped 'em off of eBay!)

Fred McGriff (image courtesy eBay)
Something else great about this set is the representation of the power blues!  By today's standards, many probably consider those to be ugly jerseys, but I like them; probably largely for the nostalgic value.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  How do you talk about 1989 and not mention an AL East title?  The Blue Jays finished with a record of 89-73, only 2 games ahead of Baltimore.  What's especially cool about that is that the last two games of the Jays' season were at home against Baltimore.  The Jays won the first game 2-1 in 11 innings and took the second game 4-3 in 9 innings.  Incidentally, Tom Henke got the win in the first game and the save in the second, while Orioles' pitcher Mark Williamson took both losses.

Of course, the Jays would go on to lose the ALCS to the eventual World Series winning Oakland Athletics in 5 games in a series that might be better remembered for the massive earth quake that toppled the city than for the baseball.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first trade post -- it'll take a while to top this!

More than once, I've heard that everything is bigger in Texas. And while I've never actually been there, now I believe it.

Before I started this blog, I made a trade with Texas native Rich Klein (yes, the Rich Klein of "Rich's Ramblings" fame; if you haven't already, you should check out his column on SportsCollectorsDaily.com).  The deal was simple.  I sent Rich some pre-war cards that didn't fit my collection and in return he put together a box of Blue Jays cards covering 1977-2014.

This was on my porch this morning
Based on our discussions, I figured the box would be a good for some entertainment; and add some cards to my collection.  Rich said it would take him some time to get together, and that was that.  I waited patiently.  I figured I'd be lucky and get 1600 mixed Jays cards to go through.  If I was really lucky, maybe I'd get 3200 of 'em.  When I got home this morning, I found an absolutely massive box on my porch.  Somehow I didn't even notice it at first.  I had parked on the road and was half-way up my (short) driveway when I saw it.  My first thought isn't safe for print; suffice it to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Here are a couple additional photos to give you an idea of just how many cards were actually in this box.  And as you may well have imagined, any plans I had of getting stuff done around the house today were basically shot.  I spent a solid couple of hours just looking through these cards.  Cataloging them will take me weeks, but I at least ripped through quickly and found the pre-1995 Topps and Upper Deck cards to update my posted wantlists.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Had you asked me yesterday, I'd have said my collection was short on 1981-1988 Fleer, 1981-1987 Donruss and 1988-1990 Score.  I don't think I can say that today, though.  My challenge now is going to be to get through this monster and sort everything out.

As agreed upon with Rich, there is some duplication in this box specifically for trading.  If you have any particular Jays cards you're looking for (especially base sets), let me know!  I can almost guarantee that I can help with your wantlists, and maybe we can setup a trade.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Doc or Dave?

On December 9, 2013, Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and then retired.  Many hailed the move as classy, by both Halladay and the Blue Jays organization.  When I first saw the headline that the Jays has re-signed him, I thought it was to actually play and began wondering about his health.  I'm glad he retired with the Blue Jays, but to be honest, he could have retired with whomever he wanted, I will always consider him a Blue Jay.  And one of the best, at that.

Whenever I think about Halladay's time in Toronto I also think about Dave Stieb's.  I've always wondered how their career numbers stack up.  And since the last chapter appears to have been written in Halladay's career, it's time to go head-to-head with Dave Stieb.

1.  Win-loss and ERA

1997 Bowman Best Roy Halladay
Baseball, like hockey and football are team sports.  Baseball, like hockey and football each have a dedicated position that is generally credited with the wins and blamed for the losses.  In that regard, pitchers share a certain spotlight with goalies and quarterbacks.  It's not always fair, but I guess if you get the glory of the win, you have to accept the risk of having a loss hung on you.

Over 16 years, Dave Stieb compiled a win-loss record of 176-137 which equates to a winning percentage of .562.  His earned run average during that span?  3.44.

Also over 16 years, Roy Halladay compiled a win-loss record of 203-105, which works out to .659 to go along with a career ERA of 3.38.

When considering just their tenures with the Blue Jays, both players are actually better than their career average.  Stieb's winning percentage improves to .566 (175 wins versus 133 losses) and Halladay's goes to .661 (148 wins over 76 losses).  Unlike Halladay, Stieb's ERA over that time also improves to 3.42; Halladay's dips to 3.43.

Based solely on the numbers, I have to give the edge to Halladay.
Moving forward, I'm just going to compare the career totals.

2. Strikeouts and Walks

Another key statistic for pitchers here.  I'm not sure I can get away with comparing these two guys without comparing these stats.  So here goes:

Stieb: 1669 Strikeouts, 1034 walks (36 intentional).
Halladay: 2117 Strikeouts, 592 walks (28 intentional).

Not even close.  Halladay, for the win.

3.  Complete Games and Innings Pitched

1980 Topps Dave Stieb
When it comes to pitching, I'm kind of old school.  I realize the modern game has evolved greatly in the last 90 years, but I like the idea of a pitcher finishing what they started.  These days, with so much money being paid to players, and invested in their development, I understand the business need to protect them and limit their hours.  I don't claim to agree with, or understand, the theories behind rest and limited activity, but it's not my money, so I don't have to.  But I like the workhorses.  The 200-plus inning guys, with complete games.  The guys that finish what they start.  So let's see how Halladay and Stieb compare.

Over his career, Halladay recorded a respectable 67 complete games and pitched 2749.1 innings.  In 8 of his 16 seasons, Halladay eclipsed the 200 inning mark.  Clearly Halladay earned his reputation as a workhorse.

Now consider this:  Stieb, over his career tallied 2895.1 innings accumulating 200-plus innings 9 times.  That alone would earn him the reputation as a workhorse.  But we're not done.  Over 16 seasons, Dave Stieb racked up 103 complete games!

There's not much else to say here.  This one goes to David Stieb, hands down.  Some other time, I'm going to have to head over to baseball-reference.com to see what some other modern guys complete game stats are (Jack Morris had 175!).

4. Hits and home runs allowed.

Okay, so I realize home runs are hits, but I can't compare hits and ignore home runs (embarassingly, I have to admit that I'm not sure if hits includes home runs; I assume it does).  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was brought back to baseball by McGwire and Sosa's home run chase in 1998.  I still prefer a small ball style of play, but power is power.  Without getting into the drug discussion, watching McGwire hit bombs was entertaining.  Anyway...this is about pitchers.  Pretty sure they aren't as much of a fan as homers in this case.  On to the numbers.

Halladay: 2646 hits surrendered, 236 home runs.
Stieb: 2572 hits surrendered, 225 home runs.

Well, look at that.  Stieb has come back to tie it up.  What a coincidence.  This highly scientific comparison just happens to have one more category left.

5.  Rookie card

You had to know this was coming.  This is a baseball card blog, after all.  And, as I noted in my most recent post, I'm a sucker for rookie cards.  Based on what Beckett defines as a rookie card, I should add.  Now, I apologize for being such an inconsiderate blogger, but I already showed both rookie cards above, trying to break up this mountain of text.  I don't want to show them again, so you'll have to scroll.  While you're still reading, contemplating if you actually want to bother scrolling all of the way back to the top, I'm going to tell you that Stieb wins this category, hands down.  Here are the reasons why:

a.) It's a Topps base product.  I'm from the junk wax generation.  No matter how much cards evolve, I love base sets, and I have grown attached to the likes of Topps, Upper Deck and yes, even Donruss.  Bowman Best is not a base set.  Bowman is, despite their 34-year absence from the hobby, and to be perfectly honest, if I had Halladay's 1997 Bowman "base" card, we'd be comparing that instead.  I also prefer simple designs.

b.) It's an action shot.  Or at least a game shot.  I prefer those to portraits / posed photos every day of the week.  Especially when it's on the field like that and you can see a bit of the stadium and the fans.  Halladay's pose looks unnatural.  His left leg is cut-off, and his right is resting on who-knows-what.  It kind of looks like Halladay is resting is foot on his own name having wedged his toe in behind the 'y'.

c.) Stieb's card has history on its side.  When I sorted through my cards and found the team bag of 1980 Topps, I knew to immediately check for Stieb's card.  I've known it was his rookie for 25 years already.  I stumbled across the Halladay card sorting through ungrouped modern cards and didn't know it was a rookie card until I started ordering the cards by year and had to use Beckett to identify the thing.

6.  The Curve ball

So at this point, it looks like Dave Steib is the winner.  He wins 2 of 4 statistical categories and takes home the 'best rookie card' award, too.  But it's not that easy.  This is where the game turns into Killer Bunnies.  A little bit of game play, a small amount of strategy and logic and then it all boils down to a seemingly random decision to win the game.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org
Halladay has one big advantage:  Timing.  Stieb had departed Toronto long before I was in a position to decide whether or not I was going to watch a Jays game live.  Halladay, however, awful rookie card and all, arrived at the right time.  I've watched Elroy pitch some entertaining-as-hell games.  In 2000, I saw him pitch his second game since being recalled from the minors (a win against the Mets), in 2006 I watched him pitch Opening Day against Johan Santana, another win and spectacular game, and in 2009, I was there to see the Halladay vs. Burnett showdown.  Again, spectacular.

So where does that leave us?  A tie.  It's a dead heat.  I can't chose.  Halladay has won every game I've ever watched him pitch live (there are more than those three, they were just the most memorable).  I never saw Steib pitch live.  Yet, Stieb has some stellar numbers and was the face of this franchise for years.  You can't turn your back on a guy with his pedigree.

In my opinion, the solution is simple:  Add Halladay to the Level of Excellence, let's call them equally awesome, and leave it at that.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reasons to love regionals #1: Earlier rookie cards

If you (or I, I guess) hang around this blog long enough, you'll eventually come to realize that I am a huge fan of regional issues.  This isn't just limited to regional Blue Jays issues, either.  When I was collecting vintage baseball (50's-70's to me) I chased stuff like Red Heart Dog Food and Berk Ross.  There were other sets I coveted (1954 NY Journal, Johnston Cookies, Dan Dee Potato Chips), but never went after them.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the mainstream issues.  But there's something about regionals that I especially enjoy.  It might be that the sets are usually smaller, that they a little more difficult to find or that in some cases, they're more affordable.  And maybe it's something else.

One great thing about regionals is that they allow you to see cards of players before the mainstream sets do.  See, I grew up in the 80's and 90's.  I'm a product of the junk wax generation.  That was a time when Beckett was king, and to add a rookie card to your collection was a big deal.  It seems I haven't grown out of it.  I'm thrilled to be able to flip open a binder and see Dave Stieb's 1980 Topps card, Cecil Fielder's 1986 Topps card, and Duane Ward's 1987 Donruss card.  But there are some I've never owned -- and always wanted.  Some day I'll flip open a binder and see a 1985 Fleer Kelly Gruber, a 1986 Fred McGriff or a 1988 Score Rob Ducey.  But until then, I have regionals!

The truth is, I didn't even realize Kelly Gruber was part of the 1984 Blue Jays Fire Safety set until I started to load it into a binder.  But there he is -- a full year before he appears on any of his mainstream rookie cards.  According to baseball-reference, Gruber appeared in 16 games in 1984 splitting his time between 3B (12 games), RF (2 games) and SS (1 game) recording a home run, for his only hit, and five strikeouts in 16 plate appearances.  In all likelihood, the card above of Gruber as an "infielder" was probably taken before any of those plate appearances were even recorded.


Also appearing in the 1984 Blue Jays Fire Safety set is Jimmy Key.  Now, obviously Key's mainstream rookie didn't wait a full year to show up, but as part of the Fleer Update issue, it obviously came out well after the card shown to the left.  And check out the number below Key's name.  That sure doesn't say 22.  Jimmy Key was with the Blue Jays from 1984 through 1992.  Once again, citing baseball-reference, Key wore 22 for his entire Jays career, save some portion of 1984.  When exactly he switched, and why, I have not figured out. I also didn't look that hard, if you want me to be completely honest.  But what I do know is this: had it not been for this regional card, I probably would have never picked up on the fact that Key didn't always wear 22.  Not a life-or-death stuff, I know, but I'm a baseball nerd.  I associate jersey number 22 to Jimmy Key.  To know that he wasn't always 22 is interesting to me.


Like Jimmy Key, Rob Ducey appeared on a card issued by the mainstream in the same year as his earliest Blue Jays Fire Safety card.  Unlike Rob Ducey, that mainstream card wasn't a rookie card.  It was a highlight card shared with Fred McGriff and Ernie Whitt.  So in a sense, Ducey's Fire Safety card did precede his mainstream "rookie card" (1988 Fleer/Score/Topps) by a full season.  Unlike Gruber and Key, I don't think Rob Ducey's jersey number(s) with the Jays are as recognizable.  This card shows him as jersey number 40, which he only wore for 1987 and 1988 (thanks again, baseball-reference), but I don't think a lot of people would be as surprised to know that he wore 40 before switching to 20.  If you found any of the 27-to-22 stuff interesting about Key, though, you might be interested to know that when Rob Ducey returned to Toronto for the 2000 season, he wore 22.  Of course, collecting regionals doesn't tell you that, being the aforementioned baseball nerd, does.

But even looking up that kind of stuff can be blamed on regionals.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just how huge is 4000?

Robert over at $30 a week habit recently posted that he hit the 4000 card milestone with his Jays collection.  Tip of the cap, sir.  Nicely done.

As a fellow Jays collector, the significance of this milestone is not lost on me.  Over the past few weeks I have been sorting through my Jays cards trying to catalog them, weed out the duplicates and organize my wantlists.  It takes a lot more time than I expected.  And I'm dealing with less than 4000 total.  So to imagine more different cards than I even have total cards is intimidating at this point.  Now I hope to get there at some point, but it'll be a while.

Let's consider 4000 for a moment.

If $30 a week habit was a baseball player, it'd be third all-time on the MLB hits list.  Fourth, if you consider Ichiro's combined NPB/MLB totals.  Rose, Cobb, Ichiro, $30 a week habit.  That's some pretty serious company.  And that's coming into the season.  By the end of 2014 I'm guessing $30 a week habit will have passed Rose.

If $30 a week habit was actually a Blue Jay, that'd be more hits than current #1 and #2 on the Jays all-time list (Fernandez, 1583 and Wells, 1529).  Late this season, or maybe early next, $30 a week habit may have as many hits as Fernandez, Wells and Delgado (1413) combined. 

Just to make this even more ridiculous, consider this:

Earlier today I grabbed a stack of Jays cards covering all eras, brands, etc and measured them.  Based on some quick math (assuming quick = correct), the average thickness of each card is 0.015917603 inches.  That means that 4000 cards stacked in a pile would stand just over 5' 31/2".  That's only 21/2" shorter than David Eckstein, the shortest Jays player of record, I can find.  Surpassing Rose's hit total will result in a collection that is taller than David Eckstein!
 
And in case you haven't given up on this post yet, it'll take another thousand cards after surpassing Rose's hit total for the collection to be taller than Jon Rauch, the tallest player in both Blue Jays and  MLB history.

Once again, congratulations.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wanted: 2004 Topps Cracker Jack Blue Jays

If I haven't already mentioned it, most of my collecting effort over the last 10 years has been focused on pre-war baseball cards.  During that time I sporadically collected a lot of different things, having owned a decent range of types between 1908-1920.

As I'm getting myself reacquainted with the modern stuff, the designs of things like Topps Cracker Jacks, Topps Turkey Red and Topps 206 catch my eye.  As I was cataloging my cards, I was surprised to see how many of these "vintage" Topps issues I had.  Especially Cracker Jacks and Turkey Reds.  I'll talk about Turkey Reds in another post; let's talk about Cracker Jacks today.

These are great cards.  Seriously.  I have owned exactly 2 "original" Cracker Jacks in my life.  A 1914 Russ Ford and a 1915 Ted Cather.  The originals are very very thin and fragile.  But the design is awesome.  The bold red, the 'Cracker Jack' title, the unique photos.  When trying to simulate this issue Topps absolutely nailed it in my opinion.  They did their homework.  The design elements of the 2004 set match the originals almost perfectly.  Topps version is printed on significantly thicker stock, though, and the backs follow the 1914 version where they are not printed upside-down compared to the front.

My favour 2004 Topps Cracker Jack, I think, has to be this Roy Halladay, largely because of the pose:


To me, it's no coincidence the pose on Halladay's card so closely matches that of Christy Mathewson's 1914 card.  That Mathewson card is one of the toughest of the 1914 set, from what I understand.  Seeing these cards side-by-side leads me to wonder if any other 2004 poses were inspired by the 1914/15 set.  It would be interesting, to me, to see such a comparison.  In all honesty, I probably won't sit down and compare them myself for fear that I might get caught up in wanting to collect the set -- the 2004 version that is.  I already know I'd love to collect either the 1914 or 1915 set, but there's no way I have that kind of bank!

For now I'm quite content just to chase the 2004 Blue Jays anyway.  If you have any that are still on my wantlist, please drop me a line and maybe we can work out a deal.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Complete: 1993 Dempster's Bread Blue Jays

When it comes to modern collecting (and when I say modern, I basically mean anything since 1980), I am a big fan of oddball and regional issues.  Especially those that are team-centric (as opposed to something like Post cereal where you might only get 1-2 cards from any given team).

The 1993 Dempster's Bread issue is a perfect example of a regional issue that I'm a big fan of.  Though I did manage to get one of these cards in a loaf of bread in 1993 (Al Leiter, for the record), this is another set that I "built by buying".  I grabbed it on eBay a while ago from a Canadian seller for just a couple bucks.  It now sits protected in binder pages alongside some other oddball/regional issues (such as this one, another favourite of mine).
The design of these cards is pretty simple.  Horizontal blue bars, a colour player photo that overflows a white parallellogram.  Surrounding the photo area bunch of logos, a card number in a white baseball and the player's name and position.  Kind of a busy design when I describe it, but simple enough when I look at it.  Maybe it's just that I like blue...I don't know.  But I do like the design of these cards.

As far as player selection goes, I'd say it's pretty good.  I mean, you're drawing from a team that's in the midst of back-to-back World Series Championships, so there are going to be some good players in here...Alomar, Carter, Winfield, White, Olerud, etc.

I am intentionally not showing those guys though, since they'll be featured in future blog posts, I'm sure.  Instead, a few other guys that likely won't get as much attention as those listed, yet deserve it when you're talking about the 1992 or 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.  You can't talk about the 1992 Blue Jays and not mention Jack Morris, the clubs first 20-game winner.  The breadth of this guy's career is impressive, though I won't go into it.  Suffice it to say that Jack Morris did exactly what he was brought to Toronto to do: win games.

And if we're talking about guys doing their jobs, how about Pat Borders?  Here's a guy that didn't, and doesn't, attract the attention like the Alomars and Carters, but he got it done when it mattered.  A career .253 hitter during 17 big league seasons, but a career .315 in the playoffs?  At some point I'll get into the rest of his numbers and try to make some sense of them, but for now, he gets a bye because I was a fan of him and this card ;)

Thanks for reading!

Richard.