22 November 2009

David Mark Winfield's oddball "pre-rookie" card

     I won't bother with the usual rundown of drafting and what not.  Who doesn't already know Big Dave was drafted by four pro teams in three different sports, skipped the minors completely and led his team to the 1973 College World Series?  What everyone may not know is that he actually had a "card" released in his rookie year of 1973.

     Ok, so not actually a card, but from 1973-1977, Dean's Photo Service of San Diego produced a set of 5.5"x8.5" black & white photos of the Padres as stadium give-aways.  Much like my local minor league hockey team does, a small selection of photos were released at a time in tandem with a post-game signing session by the players & coaches in question.  These were very nice pieces, with great posed photos on the front and a surprisingly detailed player biography and complete career stats on the back of the later years.  I snagged this photo in one of the rare appearances of this set on eBay:

     At the time of release, Nate Colbert was the heavy hitter and star of the Padres.  Unfortunately for the team, after a good 1973 season, in 1974 he would injure his back and be out of baseball by 1976.  However, the timing couldn't have been better for the entry of the a young Winfield, who would be joined by Willie McCovey to replace Colbert's lost power.

     Annoyingly, I missed the set the first time I saw it and it went for just around $30.  Naturally Winfield is the only pricey part of the set.  Recently both the 1973 & 1974 sets popped up on eBay, but the BuyItNow was well over $100 for each, so I'll just have to be satisfied with catching a glimpse.

     Oddly, neither Beckett nor the Standard Catalog list all of these sets, so it took some detective work to realize all these sets even existed.

15 November 2009

Bernardo Brito, minor league power house

     If there were such a thing recognized in the hobby as a "minor league rookie card", Bernardo Brito's would be in a 1981 TCMA card.  In a bizarre stroke of luck (for me, anyway), he had not one, but TWO 1981 TCMA cards, one with the Batavia Trojans, the short season A level affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, the other with the Waterloo Indians, the regular single A affiliate of Cleveland.  What's even more odd about that is while he did play with Batavia in 1981-1984, he didn't actually play a game with Waterloo until 1983!  So two years BEFORE he played with the team, he had a card with them.  I'll have to do some digging and see if anyone else had multiple TCMA cards in the same year with different teams.


     In any case, Bernardo didn't do much to impress that first year in Batavia, giving almost no indication of what was to come (unless it was in batting practice), hitting an anemic .207 in just 12 games that year.  I'll have to dig further into those stats as according to TheBaseballCube, he was't even drafted.  I'll have to see how this bemused-looking 17 year old ended up in the New York-Penn League in 1981, straight out of Santo Domingo.

     I picked these cards up in a lot of nearly 1000 minor league cards I bought on eBay a couple of years ago.  Managed to snag the whole lot for under $30!  I'll probably never see that happen again.

06 November 2009

1983 TCMA Idaho Falls Athletics #27 Steven Bernard Howard


      "Selected by Oakland Athletics in 8th Round (185th overall) of 1983 amateur entry draft" as they say.  Who actually remembered that the A's had a farm team in Idaho Falls?  And who could believe that as of 1983, TCMA was STILL using black & white photos on their cards?  Steve-o had an unimpressive beginning there at Idaho Falls, batting a whopping .222, whiffing 96 times in 203 at bats.  Steve was often considered the strongest power hitter in the Oakland farm system, and this was a system that included Jose Canseco.  However, over the course of his minor league career, he never managed to hit over .270 or more than 17 HR in a season.  But, alas, he played a couple of seasons in Huntsville, and that was enough to qualify him to one of my player collections.  I'm a sucker for minor league sluggers I've seen pop one over the plywood ads for local Mazda dealerships.

03 November 2009

Dann P. J. Howitt

     Dann Howitt, drafted out of Cal State Fullerton, by the Oakland A's 457th overall in the 18th round (by which time the team representatives had already had plenty to drink, not realizing there were so many eligible players still left) of the June 1986 draft.  No doubt overlooked earlier in the draft due to the extra 'n' in his name confusing the hand-crank computing machines in use by MLB in the mid-80s.

Perhaps it was the extra N that put that little extra pop in his bat.  Or maybe he was just a clone....

Anyway, here he is in his brief summer stint with the Medford A's on this 1986 Cramer card.


     Minor historical footnote here (if you look at the logo on the bottom right corner of the back) is that Cramer was in the transition to becoming Pacific Trading Cards who would, only a couple of years later, issue their silver-bordered Legends sets, followed later by some Spanish languange sets for both MLB & NFL, to ultimately become the complete mess of a company that would go out of business in the late 90s, issuing ridiculous quantities of parallel sets.

02 November 2009

Meulens named Giants hitting coach

     Here's hoping the Mighty Colossus of CuraƧao can tame the free swingers of San Francisco. Congratulations, Mr. Meulens!  Don't forget to bring the batting tee.

     While the Giants were mired among the lower levels of runs scored among MLB teams, with the help of Hensley Meulens, the Giants' AAA affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies (who boast one of the best on-field ground-crew performance groups around...all singing, all dancing, all infield dirt raking!) managed to snag a couple of the top 10 spots in batting average.  Meulens is also credited for turning around the season of Eugenio Velez, who greatly helped the Giants in their pennant chase as the season neared the end (too little, too late, I guess).

     Here he stands, like the mighty Colossus of Rhodes, Meulens holds down the fort in the first base coaching box during a Grizzlies home game on his 2009 MultiAd Sports card from the Grizzlie's team set.  Thanks to Dave Weber, Minor League Singles Master Extraordinaire for providing me with said card for a meager couple of bucks, so I didn't have to drop $17 on the whole team for this one card.

Winnie, Tuffy & the Dann

     I didn't really think I had anything to bother posting in a blog until today.  Since I've basically been blogging via my player collection posts on The Bench & SportsCardForum anyway, I've decided it's time to make it more cohesive and drag it all into one place.  No guarantees on timeliness, but I'm planning to make one post for every single card in my player collections.  So over the next 50 years, you can read my rantings, ravings and 'rithmetics about Dave Winfield, Matt Williams, Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes, Dave Henderson, Bernardo Brito, Roberto Kelly, Dann Howitt and Steve Howard.

     Winfield has been my favorite player since about 1986, when I started collecting baseball cards.

     Matt Williams impressed me a lot over the course of the 1989 season, so after sending a few cards to him with a letter, begging for autographs (I'll get to that in its own post) I started hoarding cards of him.

     In 1988, I'd started collecting Roberto Kelly & Jay Buhner, hoping they'd someday be huge stars for the Yankees.  Naturally the Yankees promptly unloaded Buhner for some third string pitchers.  Kelly at least went on to be an All Star, and one of the very few bright spots of the early 1989-1992 stretch for the team.  I collected Buhner for a couple more years, but he didn't amount to much by 1991 (hey, who knew?), so I pretty much gave up on him in any serious capacity.

     Hensley Meulens was my only attempt at prospect speculation.  Naturally, it was only because he was a Yankee, not that my 7th grade mind had ever picked up a copy of Baseball America or knew anything whatsoever about who was doing what in the minors (outside of Huntsville, anyway).  But he was a Yankee, and no one else seemed to even notice him in the set.  As a result, by the end of 1990, I had about 40 copies of his 1989 Donruss card (all the other collectors at school just gave them to me, not even bothing to trade).  For some reason, I kept up with him for the next few years until I exited high school and eventually stopped collecting around 1994-96.

     Dave Henderson I collect because he always looked like he was having so much fun out there.  As I post his cards here, just see how many teeth he always showed!

     Bernardo Brito was one of those sad anomalies of the minor leagues.  Stuck in the farm systems of teams who had no need for an extra power-hitting outfielder; first for Cleveland who had Joe Carter, Mell Hall & Brett Butler ahead of him, along with Andre Thornton at DH and then Minnesota where he wasn't going to crack the lineup already containing Dan Gladden, Tom Brunansky, Shane Mack and that Kirby guy.  One would think he would have made a better DH than Carmelo Castillo or Gene Larkin, but one isn't being paid to think.

     Dann Howitt & Steve Howard.  Well, I got to watch them play in
Huntsville (Howitt even hit a home run in either end of a double header I went to) and while both were highly touted at some point, neither measured up to their respective hype.

     And Tuffy.  While chasing down Japanese cards of Brito & Meulens, it was inevitable that I'd run into Tuffy.  The more I read about him, the more I looked at his stats, the more I read of his "legend" from one opening day, the more interested I became.  From being a sort of Kenny Lofton Light to a sort of Japanese Ryan Howard somewhere between 1990-2000.  Now he's a power hitting legend with one or two seasons left in the tank in Orix.

There are those who would call me.....Tuffy?

     Karl Derrick Rhodes, an outfielder for Western Hills High School of Cincinnati, Ohio, was drafted in the 3rd round (#68 overall) of the 1986 June draft by the Houston Astros.  Swift on the bases, but not overwhelming of power.  Karl was chosen to help out with Houston's youth movement of the late 80s and early 90s.  The team had high hopes for Karl, along with the likes of Gerald Young, Eric Anthony, Cameron Drew, Ken Caminiti, Craig Biggio & Kenny Lofton.  Some would fulfill those hopes, others not so much.

     Here is Tuffy's first baseball card, from the 1987 ProCards Asheville Tourists set.  Skinny 18 year old kid, drafted for his speed more than anything else.  Those stats don't look too bad for someone straight out of high school.


     For whatever reason, despite Karl having been nicknamed "Tuffy" years before making it in pro baseball, it wasn't until his infamous 3-HR perfomance with the Cubs that he would be listed as "Tuffy Rhodes" on a baseball card. I guess "Tuffy" was just easier for the Japanese to pronounce than "Karl", as he's listed as Tuffy on all of his Japanese issue cards.