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.