Saturday, June 30, 2012

A few minutes with Don Larsen

I have a job (er, jobs) where I know I am incredibly lucky to get to talk and meet the people that I do.

Over the years, I've interviewed countless athletes – some big names and some you will never hear about, which are usually my favorite.

As a New York Yankees fan, I have gotten to interview all of my favorite players and some of the all-time greats. On Friday, I got a chance to meet and talk to another.

Don Larsen.

He was in New York City with representatives from Steiners Sports to talk about auctioning off his uniform from his perfect game in the World Series (you can read the article I wrote for Beckett here).

When writing an article, you tend to go with the basic and add a few splashy parts. Sometimes, the funny banter and amusing anecdotes tend to get left out. Usually it's either based on space or it just doesn't fit within the scope of the article.

But blogs. That's what make blogs fun. We get to share the behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn't hit print.

One of the most thoughtful moments of the media session didn't have anything to do with the uniform or Larsen's perfect game. One of the reporters asked him about Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium. Every year, the Yankees invite back many of the players who have played for them.

This is a chance for newer generations of fans to see guys they never got to see play before. Larsen, however, doesn't like going to Old Timers Day. It's a reminder of all the people who aren't with him anymore.

“It's really tough,” Larsen said. “I miss all the guys, even the opponents. There was a love there, like family.”

But it wasn't all sadness.

One of my favorite parts was when Larsen was asked if he pays attention during the playoffs and roots for someone to also get a perfect game. Why wouldn't he? He knows what that feat felt like, so he should root for others do it. He said it was the greatest thing to ever happen to him.


Larsen fully admitted he does not for another perfect game.

So, what about Roy Halladay's no-hitter?

“That wasn't in the Series.”

Friday, June 29, 2012

A look at past NBA Draft cards

NBA Draft photos evoke so many different emotions.

The Draft (this year's was held Thursday) is the first chance for fans to see incoming rookies wearing their new team's colors, an occasion for hope and optimism.

The event is also known for flat-brimmed caps and ugly suits, a mash-up of clashing fashions and photo ops with NBA Commissioner David Stern.

And some of the players, such as 1996 Hornets draft pick Kobe Bryant, are shipped to another team before the night is over.

Due to rushing card companies, draft-focused releases, or a lack of available photos, pictures from the NBA draft often achieve cardboard notoriety. Here are some of the best NBA Draft cards of the past 20 years, flat-brimmed caps and all.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dan's Corner: The autograph inscribed to "Jennifer's Dad"

I love autographed cards.

I’m not simply referring to certified issues you pull from packs, but in-person or through-the-mail signatures – autographs that add personal connection to your collection. The player on the card once touched and held the cardboard, and signed his name to mark the occasion.

I recently picked up a few autographed cards at the Philadelphia Sports Card and Memorabilia show, after discovering a $5 bin filled with signed cards.

I’m usually wary of autographed items, especially those that haven’t been authenticated – lots of fakes out there.

At the same time, common sense plays a part. If it’s something too stupid to fake, something obscure or inexpensive, it’s probably real.

And so I rummaged through the $5 autograph bin. That’s where I found a Don Buford 1967 Topps card, signed and made out to “Jennifer’s Dad” in blue ballpoint.

When I saw the inscription, I knew I had to buy this masterpiece. I wondered about the identity of Jennifer’s dad. Maybe Jennifer was a friend of one of Don’s kids (possibly his son Damon, himself a Major Leaguer). I wondered why Don Buford, a World Series champion with the Orioles in 1970, was too lazy to ask Jennifer her father’s first name – or even to sign the card for Mr. [insert last name here], instead of the impersonal feel of “Jennifer’s Dad.”

Or maybe he should have skipped the personalized touch altogether, simply scribbling “Don Buford” without any extra effort. But if he’d done that, the card would be so less interesting!

I bought three other autographed cards from the bin:

Hal McRae on a 1971 Topps card, a long-time player and manager (and author of one of the finest manager meltdowns in YouTube history).

Brian Downing on a 1977 Topps card, who’s hit about 827 career homeruns for my Texas “Cowboys” in Roger Clemens MVP Baseball on NES.

 And Frank “Hondo” Howard, one of the greatest sluggers in Texas Rangers franchise history, in blue sharpie on a Topps Archives card with a 1969 Topps design.

Cool, cool, cool, cool. But the question remains: who is Jennifer’s dad? And why would he give away such a special card?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip report: Philly card show

The Philadelphia Card Show is one of my favorite shows of the year. There are plenty of dealers and it's within driving distance of anywhere I happen to be.

With the Valley Forge Casino opening at the Valley Forge Convention Center – which is not in Philly, but who is really paying attention – there was talk on whether the card show would stick around in its location. Well, it's definitely still there and is running at least two more times through the end of the year.

I picked up some cards to add to the Derek Jeter PC. I only got two more, but it brings that grand total to 1,644 unique cards. This does not include any kind of memorabilia or autograph cards. (I know there are three Jeter cards in the pic, but I had the Topps Chrome refractor already).

I also picked up two cards of Yankee greats.

One was this Ron Guidry jersey card ($5) with a stripe. I have a Whitey Ford card that looks the same and I figured they would make a good pair.

Here was another interesting card I stumbled on. A Whitey Ford 2001 Topps Heritage Time Capsule ($15). If you look close on the front of the card it says: “Korean War-Worn Uniform Memorabilia.”

So, I asked the seller if this was Ford's actual uniform or just a uniform from the Korean War. Big difference. The guy tells me that the uniform is Ford's because he remembers that Topps bought a lot at an auction of a bunch of uniforms of baseball players.

Guess what?

It's not Ford's uniform.

A quick search in Beckett's database tells me these uniforms were not worn by the players featured on the card. Odds on getting one of the single player cards is 1:369. However, the uniform is an actual combat uniform from the 1952 Korean War, just not Ford's.

It's still a cool piece of history to have, but I rather would have had the seller tell me he didn't know than lie to me about the card.

By the way, here are some pics from the Philly Card Show.   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dan's Corner: Vintage baseball card leads to discovery about my hometown

My hometown of Lancaster, Pa. is known for three things – Amish people, shopping malls, and the President (James Buchanan) who lived there.

Baseball cards are not on that list, and outside of an occasional card show in a hotel conference room, collecting and Amish Country, Pa. haven’t seemingly had much in common.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I learned about my oversight while rummaging through a bin of half-priced vintage cards at the Philadelphia Sports Card and Memorabilia Show, held last weekend in nearby King of Prussia.

Forget 1950s Topps cards, I wanted something old, something different, something with a story. I found all of those things in a white-bordered, crease-covered card depicting a guy called “Muddy.”

A card that was manufactured in, of all places, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

It says so on the back of my card of catcher Herold “Muddy” Ruel: “This set consists of pictures of 120 of the leading BASE BALL STARS of the AMERICAN AND NATIONAL LEAGUES made only by AMERICAN CARAMEL COMPANY, LANCASTER AND YORK, PENNA.

The card – measuring two inches wide and 3 ½ inches tall – is featured in the 1922 E121 “Series of 120,” one of the last baseball card sets released by AmericanCaramel.

Tobacco companies ruled the hobby in the late 1800s and early 1900s by inserting slabs of cardboard within packs of cigarettes, the cards adding firmness to the flimsy cigarette packets.

Eventually candy and gum companies followed suit, creating cards of their own to target children. Caramel cards stood out to card guru Jefferson Burdick, himself a child when the cards gained prominence.

“Perhaps no group has had as much sentimental appeal to older collectors as is possessed by these “Caramel Cards” of the 1912 period,” Burdick wrote in “The American Card Catalog,” released in 1960. “For many, this was their first contact with cards and their love for them has never diminished.”

One of the main distributors of these cards was the American Caramel Company, which was created in 1898 with the merging of factories in Philadelphia and York.

Two years later, a man named Milton Hershey, interested in focusing on chocolates, sold his Lancaster-based caramel factory to American Caramel.

American Caramel began including baseball cards with its candy in 1908, and continued that trend sporadically until 1927. The American Caramel cards feature factory distinctions on the backs of some of the cards, with Philadelphia and York listed on some of the earlier releases.

But then there was Lancaster, featured on the reverse of American Caramel’s cards in the 1920s.

The 1922 “Series of 120” includes Herold “Muddy” Ruel, then a catcher for the Red Sox. Yes, his first name truly is Herold. The origins of his nickname “Muddy” aren’t clear.

In any event, “Muddy” was one of the premier backstops in the league during his 19-season career, playing from 1915 to 1934 and scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series to secure the Washington Senators’ only championship.

After his playing career ended, Ruel served as a coach, manager, general manager, and even assistant to Commissioner Happy Chandler.

“A quiet, intelligent person, Ruel served as a model in behavior and deportment for others on and off the field,” reads an Associated Press story about Ruel’s death in 1963.

Due to his on-field prowess, Ruel was included in a number of card releases of the period, including 1933 Goudey.

But the 1922 American Caramel came first, distributed in a Lancaster factory less than five blocks from where I would eventually live. I’ve walked or driven past that spot thousands of times! Never realized it was the location for one of my hometown’s earliest hobby shops – not until I started rummaging through a discount card bin, looking for something old and different, something with a story.

(Follow Dan on Twitter at @dgood73)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ten tips for collectors going to the National

  • For anyone staying for a few days, make sure you leave extra room in your luggage. I learned this the first year. I had to find ways to get all the extra stuff I bought home. Thankfully, that year was in Baltimore and I was able to fit everything in my car. 

  • Buy tickets as early possible. You don't want to wait on line for tickets when you get there. The same is true with autograph tickets. Some of the more popular people could get sold out.

  • The best time for deals in on Sunday. Dealers want to take as little as they can home. The downside is if you wait, you might lose out to someone else.

  • Set a budget and them bring some extra cash. This isn't just for the toys you're going to get, but food and other expenditures. It doesn't hurt to pack a sandwich either. Money spent on food at the concession stands, which are normally priced high, is money you could have spent at the show.

  • Before picking up any wax boxes, check out the wrapper redemption programs at the corporate booths. You might want exclusive cards offered and the only way to get them is by opening the product at the corporate booth.

  • Create a plan. Nothing is worse than spending most of the show looking around and then realizing what you want at the end. Go to the National's website,, check the dealers list and print out a floor plan with every booth marked.

  • Take time to look around. The NSCC has rare items. You might be surprised by what you find, so give yourself time to look around.

  • Be patient while hunting the bargain boxes. Grab a chair if there is one and sort through those dime boxes.

  • Don't forget your want list. Put it  in order before you go, then print it out or email yourself a copy that you can check from the show floor.

  • Wear sneakers and comfortable clothing. Make sure you have backpack or some sort of bag you can carry your collectibles. If you're getting autographs, get the right holder to protect your purchase.

  • Sunday, June 24, 2012

    ICYMI: This week on the blosphere

    Here's a look at the week in blogging from my own blog posts to others on the web that I found interesting:

    * Topps Tier One came out this week, which was the focus on many collectors out there regardless if you were able to buy a box or not. Here, we look some of the big hits to land on eBay from Tier One breaks. The most popular pieces were the bat knobs in the product.

    * Dan the Man (that's what I like to call him) made his first post on Cards by Sooz by looking at R.A. Dickey's career on cardboard. Dickey has probably been the best pitcher in baseball this season doing things that at one point in his career seemed impossible. Of course, that collectors are looking for more of his cards, but they may be disappointed by what they find.

    His stats shock you – two consecutive one-hitters, zero earned runs in 42-plus innings, 11-1 record, and a 1980s hairstyle to boot.
    Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has developed into one of the National League’s premier pitchers. If he continues at this pace, an All Star Game start, and maybe even the Cy Young Award, could be on Dickey’s horizon.
    This is probably as good a time as any to dig your R.A. Dickey cards out of hiding, to watch the value multiply.
    Only problem? Despite his 15-year card career, Dickey has slid through the hobby cracks, with scant offerings available from his pre-Mets days.

    * Interesting note over at Upper Deck is putting Signature Edition on the fast track. The product comes out right before the Fourth oh July ... seriously? We still haven't seen pics from this product. How is anyone going to know if they want to buy it when there is no real preview?

    * Carl Crawford Cards had a really touching story everyone should read when you get a chance. The title of the blog is The Last Game of Catch. It's about what he's sure the last time he and his dad will get a chance to do this.
    My father has been legally blind for most of his life. During the Vietnam War he was classified 4-F for the draft, meaning he was exempted from service because he just couldn't see. At any rate, coke-bottle glasses and all, he taught me how to love and play baseball, and during the summer when I was a kid he'd come home from work and we'd frequently play catch in the backyard. Looking back I now realized he managed although the ball was something of a shapeless white blur for him. He managed because he enjoyed the game and loved being in the yard with me.
    * Here's another cool story about family over at Autograph University. Eddie Farrell wasn't the most popular New York Yankee, but he played with them and was a World Series champ. Check out this blogger got an autograph of Farrell's, who just happen to be his great grandfather.

    * Over at Baseball Cards Come to Life, there are some fun stories from a baseball card photographer.

    (See any stories around the web you want to share, shoot me an email

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    Pulling the big hit

    Last month, when Topps Archives came out, Dan and I went to the card shop on the very first day of the release and bought two boxes each.

    We had fun opening the product (that is the point, right?) and pulled some really great cards. I'll post my two-box break in the coming days just to get a peak at what was inside and perhaps even get a few trades offers.

    I pulled a Yu Darvish autograph out of Archives and was told by everyone, but Dan, to sell the card.

    I didn't sell it. At the time the card was going for $500 on eBay, now it's going for around $250-$300. But either way, I don't mind.

    Here was the post I wrote for Beckett about why I'm hanging on to the Darvish auto.

    What would you do if you pulled the big hit?

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    J.J. Putz auctioning Justin Bieber auto for charity

    Last week, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever J.J. Putz opened a pack of cards and girls everywhere screamed wildly.

    Putz opened Justin Bieber 2.0 packs after teammate Brad Zeigler brought some back from the Panini headquarters, which I first read on a story on Yahoo! (link).

    Instead of giving the card to one of his twin 7-year-old daughters, Putz is putting the card up for sale in an auction through the Diamondbacks website.

    Putz said this in a release:
    "Given the way I obtained this card, I think the only responsible course is to donate it to charity. I have the chance to raise money and awareness for two important causes. Besides, convincing my twin girls I was better off taking them to Justin Bieber's Believe Tour kickoff concert on Sept. 29 in Phoenix rather than keeping the card, put me in the running for father of the year."
    I always wondered what kind of trading cards baseball players would open if they had a chance. Now I know. 

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Dan's Corner: The curious cardboard career of R.A. Dickey

    By Dan (@dgood73)

    His stats shock you – two consecutive one-hitters, zero earned runs in 42-plus innings, 11-1 record, and a 1980s hairstyle to boot.

    Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has developed into one of the National League’s premier pitchers. If he continues at this pace, an All Star Game start, and maybe even the Cy Young Award, could be on Dickey’s horizon.

    This is probably as good a time as any to dig your R.A. Dickey cards out of hiding, to watch the value multiply.
    Only problem? Despite his 15-year card career, Dickey has slid through the hobby cracks, with scant offerings available from his pre-Mets days.

    Dickey only has 250 certified autograph cards on the market. No, that’s not the number of different autograph issues – that’s the total number of cards he’s signed, all featured in 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball (Dickey earned a bronze metal in the 1996 Olympics).

    Memorabilia cards? None.

    His rookie, 1997 Bowman, can be yours for vending machine snack prices.

    Dickey is finally the dominant pitcher the Rangers hoped he would become when they drafted him in the first round of the 1996 draft (other draftees that year include Kris Benson, Travis Lee, Eric Chavez and Jake Westbrook).

    The world was bright for Robert Allen Dickey then. The hurler had just graduated from the University of Tennessee, ready to take on the professional baseball world.

    But Dickey’s financial future and cardboard career were undercut when the Rangers gave him a post-draft physical and noticed he was missing an elbow ligament. Forget throwing a fastball, he shouldn’t have been able to turn a doorknob without pain, doctors told him.

    The Rangers, concerned by the prognosis, reduced Dickey’s signing bonus from $810,000 to $75,000, and the can’t-miss prospect – as well as cardboard – attention disappeared. Since Dickey wasn’t a blue-chipper anymore, the card companies devoted checklist space to other Rangers prospects at the time, players such as Mike Lamb, Carlos Pena, Danny Kolb and Corey Lee. (Lee, with one Major League appearance to his credit and a career ERA of 27.00, boasts nine different autograph releases, including 1998 Bowman and 2001 Fleer Autographics.)

    Despite his missing ulnar collateral ligament and lost hype, Dickey advanced through the Rangers’ system, eventually making his debut with the big-league club in 2001. Only one problem: he wasn’t very good as a traditional pitcher.

    Dickey bounced back and forth between the majors and minors over the next few seasons, sporting MLB season ERAs of 6.75, 5.09, 5.61 and 6.67.

    The sporadic big league stops netted Dickey appearances in a few card releases, including 2004 Fleer Tradition and Topps Total, as well as 2005 Topps and Topps Heritage. But fastballs and curves weren’t enough to keep Dickey in the big leagues, and hopeful to prolong his career, Dickey developed a “forkball” in the minors.
    Dickey made the Rangers out of spring training in 2006, and tried out his forkball in his first start of the season against the Tigers.

    Six homeruns later, Dickey had tied a big league record for most HRs allowed in one game – and was back in the minors, back to cardboard obscurity.

    Dickey bounced between the Texas, Milwaukee and Seattle systems in the following seasons, honing his “forkball,” which really turned out to be a fast knuckleball.

    He also matured – finding closure in personal demons and re-establishing his spirituality, aspects of his life addressed in his memoir, “Wherever I Wind Up.” Dickey stopped worrying so much about every at-bat, and found comfort on the mound.

    And he kept throwing his knuckleball.

    The Mets signed the journeyman in 2010, and he opened the year with a 4-2 record and 2.23 ERA at AAA Buffalo, earning a return ticket to the majors.

    Dickey and his knuckler won 11 games that season, and the Mets rewarded him with a two-year contract. Topps took notice, putting Dickey in four 2011 releases – Topps, Gypsy Queen, Heritage and Platinum, breaking Dickey’s six-year MLB card drought.

    He also appears in 2012 Bowman, 15 years – 15 years! – following his first and only other Bowman release. Where the 1997 rookie card shows a posed, clean-shaven dreamer in a pristine white jersey, the 2012 card features Dickey in Mets black with a shaggy beard, his leg kicked high, ready to pitch, ready for battle.

    Among current players, Dickey’s cardboard career most closely resembles that of Colby Lewis, another late-1990s and early-2000s Rangers prospect who bounced around – and spent six seasons without any MLB card issues – before finding late-career major league success.

    But Dickey’s in a league of his own right now, baffling batters and astounding fans with his 11-1 record and 2.00 ERA. Just don’t expect to find many of his cards in your collection – not yet, anyway.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    The big hits from Tier One on eBay

    We looked at the early hits from Tier One, but that was a little deceiving. The early hits that landed on eBay were small names and high-numbered cards.

    There are some REALLY good cards in this product (Anyone have money I could borrow?)

    I'm going to keep updating the list as I see cards, but if you see any not on the list, let me know!

    Bat knobs have found their way onto eBay:
    Mickey Mantle 
    Joe DiMaggio
    Ty Cobb
    Roger Maris
    Willie McCovey - sold $669
    Tim Lincecum - sold $635
    Justin Upton - sold $399
    Paul Molitor - sold $525
    Carlos Gonzalez  - sold $399
    Joe Mauer
    Carl Yastrzemski
    Freddie Freeman
    Don Mattingly
    Andrew McCutchen - sold $499
    Gary Carter - sold $999
    George Brett - sold $799
    Mike Schmidt
    Brooks Robinson  - sold $735
    Ian Kinsler
    Al Kaline - sold $660
    Shin Soo-Choo
    Roberto Clemente
    Jimmy Rollins
    Jose Bautista
    Dustin Pedroia
    Rod Carew
    Troy Tulowitzki
    Alex Rodriguez
    Harmon Killebrew
    Albert Pujols
    Catfish Hunter - $800

    Cut autos
    Mickey Mantle cut autograph 1/1

    Prodigious patches
    Jim Rice Prodigious Patch /10
    Carl Yaztrzemski Prodigious Patch /10
    Doc Gooden Prodigious Patch /10

    Rookie reprint autos
    Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Reprint auto /25 (redemption)
    Ernie Bank acetate auto /25
    Don Mattingly acetate auto /25
    Chipper Jones acetate rookie reprint auto /25
    Josh Hamilton acetate auto /25

    Other hits
    Joe Morgan dual bat /15
    Reggie Jackson black silver auto /25
    Carl Yastrzemski auto /50
    Sandy Koufax white ink parallel auto (redemption)
    Al Kaline white auto /25
    Luis Tiant white auto /25
    Mickey Mantle bat relic /50

    Early look at Tier One on eBay

    The week of a release, cards trickle on to eBay before the actual release date. This gives a collectors a chance to check out a product before buying it (and also annoys dealers who don't get the cards until the release date and are behind when it comes to selling).

    Tier One is one of Topps' high-end products with hobby boxes selling for about $90-$100.

    There is just one pack with three cards - two autos and one relic.

    So what have people been getting?

    Let's take a look, although as of 11:40 Tuesday morning, the big hits have yet to land on eBay. Really, there haven't been many big names either. I'll update later as more and more cards go live.

    These are some of the cooler looking autographs. A black background with a silver autograph and are numbered to 10. However, not two of the best names.

    Chris Heisey

     Ubaldo Jimenez

    Here are some higher numbered autographs

    Jemile Weeks

    Gaby Sanchez (this is one tough pull considering he got demoted for a while this year)

    Here's a look at the relic cards with Jason Motte, Miguel Cabrera and Derek Jeter. There Jeter is numbered to /150 while the other two are numbered to /399.

    Two of the best cards on eBay right now from Tier One

    Dee Gordan /25

     Hall of Famer Billy Williams /50

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Topps tweets Tier 1 bat knobs

    Topps' next product is coming out next week and it's one of the high end ones on the schedule.

    The company was tweeting up a storm the past couple of days and putting up pictures of the bat knobs in the product. There are about 100 bat knobs, according to Topps' tweets, and here are plenty of pictures to see some of the stars in the product.

    I don't mind the bat knobs from current players, but bat knobs from guys such as Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth make me squirm a little.

    Also no Derek Jeter in this collection.