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.