31 October 2010

Lots of Press for Bam Bam

    With the Giants in the World Series, not to mention unleashing 20 runs in the first two games, there is are a new crop of articles about the man that helped make that happen, the San Francisco Giants hitting coach, Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens.  Here he is in his 2010 Topps Emerald Nuts card along with coaches Tim Flannery and Roberto Kelly, his first card since becoming a Major League coach.  I might actually consider collecting modern cards again if they'd eliminate several of the annoying reprint insert sets and go back to including coaches in the sets.

 
The Big Five with … Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens (NBC Sports)

Former Yankees prospect Hensley 'Bam Bam' Meulens is now a Giant hit in San Francisco (NY Daily News)

As Giants make a World Series run, hitting coach Meulens is gratified by success (The Canadian Press)

Pregame interview with Hensley Meulens (MLB.com) 

Muelens logró la fórmula (El Universal, Venezuela)

Meulens recuperó el poder bateador de los Gigantes (Terra, Argentina)

And of course, this one:

Bonds says he wants to be the Giants' hitting coach (Washington Post)

Yeah, how 'bout you start in the Arizona Fall League with the Arizona Giants, first, Mr. Bonds.  I think Mr. Meulens has the job pretty well in hand.  

1993 Topps / R&N China porcelain baseball cards

     In the very early 1990s, R&N China acquired a license with Topps to produce porcelain versions of many of Topps' iconic cards from the previous 50 years.  These were marketed by The Hamilton Collection, makers of endless "collectible" nick-nacks as "Baseball's Dream Team".

     They ran a prospective enthusiast $19.50 per card (+ $1.50 shipping & handling) each month, and included the nifty wooden wall display.  Today, the most common cards can be picked up on eBay for $10 or less even though many sellers list them for more.  I've yet to see any of the porcelain cards sell for more than $15.

     The original Dream Team collection include reproductions (basically a printed decal of a baseball card image on the "World's Thinnest Porcelain", front & back) of the following:

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle
1952 Topps Jackie Robinson
1952 Topps Willie Mays
1952 Topps Duke Snider
1952 Topps Yogi Berra
1953 Topps Satchel Paige
1953 Topps Whitey Ford
1954 Topps Ernie Banks
1954 Topps Gil Hodges
1957 Topps Brooks Robinson
1958 Topps Roberto Clemente
1959 Topps Casey Stengel

     Once has to assume this offering was at least moderately successful (as was pretty much anything related to baseball cards in 1990), as Hamilton went on to produce a 12-card sets of Nolan Ryan (1993) and Mickey Mantle (1995), and at some point there was also a series of Topps rookie cards of key players, to include this Dave Winfield that I recently pulled the trigger on:

       The above card seems to have been part of the Danbury Mint's "Tomorrow Hall of Famers" collection, which consisted of the following:

1974 Topps Dave Winfield
1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley
1979 Topps Ozzie Smith
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken, Jr.
1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg
1985 Topps Kirby Puckett
1985 Topps Roger Clemens
1986 Topps Traded Barry Bonds
1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey, Jr. 
1990 Topps Frank Thomas
1993 Topps Traded Mike Piazza

      There was another set released as "The Heirloom Collection" that featured the following cards:

1974 Topps Mike Schmidt
1984 Topps Traded Dwight Gooden
1985 Topps Orel Hershiser
1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco
1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson
1989 Topps Carlton Fisk

       There were later sets from R&N China that came in wooden cases (Griffey's Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck and Topps rookie cards, various cards of Harmon Killebrew and Willie Mays, and even a complete run of Nolan Ryan's Topps cards from 1968-1994, as well as the 1990 Topps highlight cards that started the set that year).  The Danbury Mint also distributed sets of Ted Williams (18 cards) and Cal Ripken, Jr. (16 cards).

     According to the 2003 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, the entire 1993 Topps set was reproduced in porcelain versions with pricing in 2003 listed as commons for $3 and stars at 15x their base set value.  The SCBC had the following to say:
Each card in Topps' 825-card set for 1993 was reproduced in a porcelain version.  The thin, round-cornered porcelain cards are in the same size as the regular cards and exactly reproduce both front and back.  Each card was sold shrinkwrapped on a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" cardboard backing with a wooden display stand and numbered certificate of authenticity.  The first five cards in the set, and every card with a number divisible by five, were produced in an edition of 5,000; all other cards were issued in an edition of 1,000.
     I've posted queries here and there trying to ascertain the validity of that entry, and I find my self agreeing with those who have thought it highly doubtful that R&N China actually produced every card.  I can find no evidence of any of the all-star, prospect, manager or checklist cards, and precious few commons.  I've decided to compile a checklist here of every card I've actually seen on the web in the hopes that it helps someone track down a card they might not have known about for their player collection.  I'll update this post as I find more.  So far I've found evidence of 80 of 825.

1993 Topps/R&N China

1 Robin Yount
3 Ryne Sandberg
4 Roger Clemens
10 Will Clark
11 Eric Karros
17 Dave Hollins
18 Terry Steinbach
32 Don Mattingly
40 Ozzie Smith
41 Alex Fernandez
47 Bob Scanlan
52 Bobby Bonilla
66 John Burkett
80 Cecil Fielder
87 Kevin Reimer
93 Sandy Alomar, Jr.
98 Derek Jeter #1 Draft Pick
100 Mark McGwire
116 Mark Lemke
138 Joe Oliver
140 Gary Sheffield
150 Frank Thomas
154 Wes Chamberlain
156 Sammy Sosa
163 Tim Wakefield
170 David Justice
178 Jeff Fassero
179 Ken Griffey, Jr.
183 Greg Maddux
200 Kirby Puckett
211 Doug Dascenzo
220 Benny Santiago
227 Jeff Bagwell
230 Carlton Fisk
265 Andre Dawson
275 Andy Van Slyke
291 Tommy Greene
300 Cal Ripken, Jr.
311 Jay Howell
319 Paul Assenmacher
322 Pat Borders
340 John Kruk
344 Jack McDowell
350 Joe Carter
362 Luis Gonzalez
371 Mariano Duncan
392 Travis Fryman
393 Ron Gant
397 George Brett
400 Bo Jackson
404 Barry Larkin / Travis Fryman AS
406 Larry Walker / Kirby Puckett AS
407 Barry Bonds / Joe Carter AS
412 Jamie McAndrew
421 Curt Schilling
426 Nigel Wilson
440 Ruben Sierra
461 Steve Reed
473 Dave Henderson
478 Jessie Hollins
480 Pat Listach
500 Jose Canseco
522 Shane Reynolds
572 Trevor Hoffman
595 Shawon Dunston
615 Steve Avery
630 Mark Grace
635 Albert Belle
640 Doc Gooden
652 Dave West
680 Craig Biggio
691 Jim Tatum
700 Nolan Ryan
721 Rick Wilkins
722 Chuck Carr
740 Len Dykstra
750 Rickey Henderson
759 Charlie Hayes
760 Luis Polonia
789 Jeff Conine
795 Deion Sanders

1993 Topps Traded/R&N China
1T Barry Bonds
24T Mike Piazza
48T Paul Molitor
54T Greg Maddux

     There were also porcelain magnets produced, in a smaller size and square configuration.
So far, I've seen these:

1993 Topps/R&N China Magnets

2 Barry Bonds
26 Skeeter Barnes
30 Fred McGriff
34 Juan Gonzalez
35 John Smoltz
40 Ozzie Smith
75 Juan Guzman
107 John Kiely
135 Mickey Tettleton
154 Wes Chamberlain
179 Ken Griffey Jr.
240 John Olerud
280 Tom Glavine
298 Scott Livingston
300 Cal Ripken, Jr.
306 Damon Berryhill
333 Otis Nixon
353 Buddy Groom
392 Travis Fryman
700 Nolan Ryan
795 Deion Sanders

Other magnets I've seen include (but are not limited to):

1978 Topps Dale Murphy
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg
1984 Topps Traded Darryl Strawberry
1984 Topps Traded Dwight Gooden
1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson
1989 Topps Mark Grace
1989 Topps Nolan Ryan

This ebay seller has a lot of both the cards and the magnets: http://myworld.ebay.com/1crybaby/.  His listing for a 1998 Topps Chan Ho Park is the most recent porcelain card I've found evidence of so far.

A few other collectors are also chasing down the porcelain cards of their interests:

Rickey Henderson Collectibles
Porcelain 1980 Topps Rookie Card

Collecting The Cubs
Porcelain Topps Cards made by R&N China

24 October 2010

Ok, I Checked Out Your Cards....Now They Are Mine!

     While you may not see it right away, CheckOutMyCards.com has quickly become one of the best trading sites on the web. What's that? You can't trade on COMC? Balderdash, I say! Maybe I can't trade one card directly for another, but so long as my cards are being traded for other people's store credit, I can then trade that credit back for cards I want. So there's a monetary middle-man involved, but the fact remains, I'm able to unload cards I don't want, and in return, pick up cards I do want. I guess it's akin to a three-way trading site.

     Maybe I can't actually find a collector that happens to need a bunch of Ryne Sandberg's old Topps and Panini stickers or minor league cards of Juan Gonzalez or everything I happen to find of Shigeo Nagashima, but it is thanks to COMC that I've been able to "trade" a very eclectic assortment of stickers (American and Japanese) and Japanese cards for a much more useful (to me anyway) stack of Dave Winfields, Roberto Kellys and an assortment of odds and ends for my "All Things Presley, But Not Elvis" collection.

     Thus far, I've unloaded 133 cards on COMC (with another 345 looking for a good home) and picked up 150 cards. The lastest batch shipped brought the following gems:


     This batch put me over the 850 mark for different cards, coins, patches, photos and cups of depicting Dave Winfield. Sadly, I'm still not really making much progress, as each time I manage to pull in a catch like this, Topps issues another dozen cards of Winnie. This year he's got some 20 new cards in the just-released Topps Triple Threads and Topps Update sets. Give it a rest, Topps!

     But back to the progress side, though, that puts me at:
43/100 of Dave's Yankee Stadium Legacy cards (100 Winfields in that set...not a single Hensley Meulens or Roberto Kelly among thousands of other cards to work with!)
12/23 Upper Deck Heroes base cards
4/7 Upper Deck 20th Anniversary cards

     While I'm not usually enamored of game used cards, I was happy to knock several of them off my want list for relatively little. When you really get down to it, I just traded a bunch of Topps, Fleer and Panini stickers for them!

20 October 2010

1986 ProCards Waterbury Indians Bernardo Brito


     Unfortunately for all of us Brito collectors (read: me) Bernie had no baseball cards in 1984 & 1985.  No team sets for Batavia or Waterloo those years.  But young Senor Brito was a busy man.  In 1984, he must have found his stroke as he went from a .228, 11 home run hitter in 95 games split between Batavia and Waterloo to a .300 hitter with 19 long balls in just 79 games with Batavia in 1984.  Then back to Waterloo again for 1985, where, while his average dipped back to .257 he went deep 29 times, earning a spot on Cleveland's 40-Man roster (though no actual playing time).
 
     By the end of 1985, Brito had spent five years in A ball.  That winter, he headed home to play his first official winter league season for the Licey Tigres.  A great season with Waterloo was followed by a great season with Licey, where Bernie, with 7 homers and 35 runs batten in, earned an All Star selection as well as Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the Caribbean World Series roster of the Dominican League champs, Águilas Cibaeñas.

     In 1986, he'd long past earned his promotion to AA and a spot with the Waterbury Indians.  While his numbers were slightly down from the previous year, hitting only 18 home runs on the season against the tougher Eastern League pitching, he still managed to put on a show, such as his three dinger performance on July 22nd.  But in a glimpse of what might have been, from a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 24 October 1986, he beat out the boss, Indians president Peter Bavasi with a fishing pole:
Bavasi attended the Indians' organizational meetings in Florida earlier this month and received a fishing lesson from Bernardo Brito, one of the Tribe's minor-league prospects on their Instructional League team.

"When they're finished playing the games, a lot of the players go fishing," said Bavasi, an avid fisherman. "I've got hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and poles, but Brito said all he needed was a line, a hook and a sinker."

Bavasi supplied Brito with those basic tools and the outfielder sat down at the end of a dock.

"Here I am with a back pack, poles, waders and everything else," Bavasi said.  "All Brito did was bait the hook with a piece of banana, throw the line in, and catch a red snapper.  I didn't catch anything."

     ProCards was making their debut in the minor league team set arena in 1986, as evidenced by the complete lack of information about the players on the backs of most of the cards that year.   While ProCards was just getting warmed up, 1986 would be the least season for affiliated minor league baseball in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Cleveland would move their AA affiliation to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the 1987 season, and Waterbury wouldn't see another pro ball team until the independent Northeast League arrived in 1997 in the form of the Waterbury Spirit.  It would be short-lived as the Spirit would leave for Lynn, Massachusetts after the 2000 season.

09 October 2010

2000 Future Bee Power League UL box break (pack 7)

After the Mid-Season hiatus, we now return to the Power League UL box break.


Takeshi Hidaka  - still catching for Orix, only now for the Buffaloes and on a part-time basis.  Hit .279 in  79 games this past season and earned free agency for the second time in his career.
Takeshi Hidaka @ NPB Official Website


Hiroshi Gondoh - in 2000, the manager of the Yokohama BayStars.  In 1961, Gondoh was the recipient of the Eiji Sawamura Award, the NPB equivilent of the Cy Young Award.  While it's well established that Major League pitchers used to throw a lot more innings than they do today, they couldn't hold a candle to the mileage of Japanese pitchers.  Gondoh, a starter, appeared in 69 games in 1961, winning 35, completing 32.  Across those 69 games, Gondoh pitched 429.1 innings with an extremely stingy 1.70 ERA.  That's FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE.  The Major League leader in innings pitched in 1961 was Whitey Ford with 283.  This season's leader, was naturally iron man Roy Halladay with 250.2 IP.  The last time anyone threw over 400 innings in the Major Leagues was in 1908 when Ed Walsh pitched in an insane 464 innings (with a ridiculous 1.42 ERA), but that was also the dead ball era and the spitball was still legal.


Jun Inoue - part time outfielder with the Yokohama BayStars.  Over the course of his career, he never played more than 83 games in a season.  Granted I'm not doing any research here, but he seemed worth more than that, hitting over .300 several times. Unless he was just injury prone, he seems to have been given the short end of the stick in his career.


Makoto Shiozaki - another Orix mainstay, playing with the BlueWave since 1997, and stuck with the Buffaloes after the team merger.  Only played a handful of full seasons, so he looks to be a utility infielder. 
Makoto Shiozaki @ NPB Official Website


Nobuhiko Matsunaka - One of NPB's heavy hitters, seen here with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.  He would stay with the Hawks as the team changed ownership and became the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2005.  This is his card from the Super Rare insert set.  Matsunaka's power output peaked at 46 homeruns in 2005, but has dimmed somewhat over the past five seasons.  He missed a chunk of the 2010 season to a wrist injury.
Nobuhiko Matsunaka @ NPB Official Website


Hiroshi Shibahara - outfielder with the Hawks since 1997.

Hiroshi Shibahara @ NPB Official Website

02 October 2010

15 Years of Winfield Oddballs

A very eclectic mélange of goodies in the post today.

1989 Phoenix Collect the Stars Baseball Magnetables


I'm not sure why, but Beckett only lists 47 magnets in this set, while the Standard Catalog lists 156. For the 1990 set, Beckett only lists about 17 of a set of at least 115 and the Standard Catalog doesn't list the 1990 set at all.

1994 Minnesota Twins pocket schedule


There were at least three different pocket schedules in 1994 with this photo on the front. In addition to the SuperAmerica (a local convenience store chain in Minnesota and the Midwest) back, there were two others with different ads for WCCO TV on the back.

August 22, 2004 Be a Good Sport at the Dome Day

A stadium giveaway featuring a Minnesota legend and a Minnesota legend in the making, encouraging good sportsmanship by all. Respect the game, but have fun. And that's one to grown on!