31 December 2009

"It was after 3. His blood sugar was low!"


     Grinning maniaclly out of his little box on this 2009 Emerald Nuts Giants card (brought to you by Topps, the Giants and the letter 'C'), one has to wonder if that was what the Giants management decided was the problem with Carney Lansford's hitting coachery in 2009. No, that opening dependent clause really doesn't go with the rest of the sentence. But I threw a comma in there. And that's OHHHH-kay!

     As everyone knows by now, Lansford was asked to leave the store, and Multilingual Mister Meulens was brought up from Fresno as his replacement. But that's not important, right now.

     Flanked by Flannery in the first box and Lansford on the left is one Roberto Conrado Kelly. Kelly is the Giant's first-base and baserunning coach. Before the '09 season, I caught this article on MLB.com:

Giants work on better baserunning

     Now, Kelly was one of my favorite Yankees when I was watching them during their miserable 1989-1992 doldrums. But after reading that article, and then watching the Giants scratch and scrape for wins this season with their casualty list of a roster, one can't help but wonder if Lansford was the only one they might have asked to clean out his desk. The Giants finished 10th in the NL in stolen bases. Their team leader, Randy Winn, had a whopping 16 steals. 16. Even now, as a Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson could still manage more than 16 steals.

Hideki Matsui Home Run Collection

To take a brief break from the March of Meulens, here's set I've started chasing after a couple of big deals with a collector in the Philippines, as well as some work on Yahoo! Auctions Japan. So far, I've managed to pick up 237 of these.

From his debut in NPB, NTV & Toho (and later Upper Deck for his MLB home runs with the Yankees) issued a card for every one of Hideki Matsui's home runs....as he hit them. So all of the photos are from the actual home run or game, not like Topps and Upper Deck (in the US) where they issue a set of 500 cards and employ like 5 different photos.

The cards are all about the size and shape of a phone card, with rounded corners, and I'm guessing a description of the situation of each home run. They're pretty much broken up into a set for each season he played, as the year is listed on the front, and the actual date of the home run on the back. Here's a not so random sampling:

 
 


Lots of bats flying through the air, lots of home plate congratulations, but I think my favorites are those where you can see the ball leaving Matsui's bat.

And somehting you might notice about the Giants' helmets that separate them from every other team I've ever seen is that they aren't glossy and shiny. They have a very cool matte-style finish that seems to make them almost glow on the card as if they were added later as a digital effect. You'll see it a lot more in some of the Tuffy Rhodes cards when I get to them. I think the Yankees should adopt that style of finish on their helmets for a year. it would have been awesome had they done it when Godzilla joined the team.

In 1997, the cards got an upgrade and they added color to the backs:



If you notice just above the photo, this was home run #2 of the 1997 season.

Starting with #100, every multiple of 50 was a special card. I don't have 100 or 150, but I do have 200 & 300:


 


Blogger/teacher/Marinerd Deanna Rubin paid a visit to the Hideki Matsui museum in Japan about 2 years ago, and the museum (run by the Matsui family) actually has what look like 8x10 versions of many of this set on display as a part of the museum. Have a look:

Deanna at the Hideki Matsui Museum

And while you're there, browse around Deanna's great site. She takes the absolute BEST photos during the hundreds of baseball games she attends each year.

27 December 2009

Hensley Meulens/Leonard Griffin - separated at birth?


     If I thought anyone was actually reading this, I might attempt to cover my player collections more evenly, but since Hensley Meulens has been the focal point of my efforts for the last few years, you'll just have to bear through it as best you can. My most recent pickup arrived the day after Christmas in the form of 6 1991 Topps cards of various Yankees commons. All 6 of which had the backs of 1991 Topps football cards. I knew there were a scattering of these type of card out there, as I've seen them mentioned in posts of various trading forums, but I never thought I'd run across one that actually intersected with any of my interests.

     I may have to force myself to do some extra research on these and see if I can figure out how many of these were actually produced. I should be able to either find the listing, or reconstruct the listing of which cards made up the 132 card sheet that these 6 came from, and then see if I can reconstruct the football sheet that these were mixed up with. From the backs, it looks like there were at least two sheets involved; sheets C & D. I've got a pile of old baseball card magazines lying around the house that I picked up for shipping on eBay, I'll dig through those and see if any contemporary references were made to these oddities. In any case, this made for a great oddball addition to my Meulens collection that I otherwise would never have thought to look for!

     In addition to the Meulens, the lot also contained Eric Plunk, Jeff Robinson, Pasqual Perez, Alan Mills and Dave Eiland (wow, that heartstopping 1990 Yankees pitching staff!). I also know there is a Chipper Jones with a football back, as there are two on eBay (one bidding starts at $1, the other you can BIN for a mere $400!). On a side note, Plunk in a Yankee uniform is interesting as he was originally drafted and signed by the Yankees in the 4th round of the 1981 draft. He was traded to the A's, in 1985, as part of the deal that sent Rickey Henderson to New York. Where it gets even more interesting is that he was AGAIN traded, in 1989, as part of a deal that sent Rickey Henderson BACK to Oakland!

19 December 2009

"Ah....new acquisitions!"


  

     In a single, wondrous mail-day, I have received a completely unknown (and apparently uncatalogued) 1994 Kansas City Royals Police SGA card of Dave Henderson (note the grin) and that last (as far as I can tell) American baseball card of Hensley Meulens, which comes from the 21-card 1989 Pacific Cards & Comics Rookies Superstars series.

     The Henderson I happened across on eBay when a seller posted the entire Royals team set individually. The Meulens, I had originally thought was another of those Broder Rookies sets with the cartoon on the reverse. That may explain why I've had such a hard time finding it. This set IS included in the 2003 Standard Catalog (12th Ed), but by the 2006 edition, all unlicensed sets had been removed. I'm still not entirely sure they sets are listed correctly, since no mention is made of the design on the reverse of the cards. 1989 would be Meulens biggest year for these bootleg cards; he had at least four unlicensed cards that year.

  

13 December 2009

Tuffy's Last Ride?



     Tuffy Rhodes, seen here in the most recent card I have of him (2008 BBM 1st Version), was granted free agency at the end of this season by the Orix Buffaloes. Despite putting up huge numbers this year while he was in the lineup, because he missed two months with a broken wrist, the Orix front office chose to ignore the fact that he was hurt and just pointed at the numbers as if he didn't perform up to expectations. But, considering how inept the Orix management has been in the last few years, and how much Tuffy was making (¥320M last year, which while it it looks to be a lot, is really only about $3.6M), they were just looking to make a major cut in their salary expenses and only offered him about half that.

     However, while Tuffy would have preferred to stay with Orix, he's willing to move on. He's just shy of 500 career home runs and 2,000 career hits in Japan, and would like to end is career with those nice big, round milestones. Hopefully another Pacific League team will be willing to pick him up for the next couple of seasons. Provided he doesn't get beaned in the hand again, he can still put up some monster numbers. If you extrapolate his numbers this year (22HR, 62RBI, .308 BA, which took something of a dive at the end, he was hitting closer to .350 when he got hurt, in 84 games) out to perhaps 130 games total (the NPB season is 144, but if a team isn't in the pennant race, the foreigners are usually cut loose for the last week or two of the season), he would have ended up with around 35 HR, and nearly 100 RBI. Also, his strike outs, which he is legendary for, were WAY down this year at the point he got hurt.

     The title of this post links to Wayne Graczyk's article at The Japan Times. It's too bad Wayne didn't go a little farther into Tuffy's 2009 season, as I'd really like to hear what Tuffy changed in his batting approach this year to turn in such great numbers.

     In other news, I did manage to snag the 1998 Takara Kintetsu Buffaloes set from Yahoo Auction Japan with the help of KuboTEN.com. I'll get the Tuffy card posted to my gallery when it arrives.

11 December 2009

A Young Hendu



     I can only think that the photographer had just asked young David a question, else he likely would have had a huge grin on his face for his very first baseball card. Over the course of his career, Mr. Henderson was one of the most consistently smiling players in baseball. The backs of his later cards read like a travelogue of the West Coast.

Born in either Dos Palos or Merced, California
Drafted by the Seattle Mariners
He played in Bellingham, Washington,
Stockton, California,
San Jose, California,
Spokane, Washington,
Seattle, Washington,
(brief, but memorable, stint in Boston)
San Francisco, California,
Oakland, California,
Modesto, California,
and Tacoma, Washington,
before ultimately rounding out his career in Kansas City.

     From the back of his card, he'd just spent the year knocking the cover off the ball at Single-A San Jose Missions in 1979 and would be promoted all the way to AAA Spokane for the 1980 season.

     Thanks to the vision and business acumen of the partnership of Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein, who would produce an assorted set of baseball picture cards as TCMA Ltd., we have this fine cardboard keepsake of the man who would known to the baseball world as "Hendu".

05 December 2009

Taste the Rainbow!



     Ok, so it's not a rainbow in the traditional sense of piles of meaningless, slightly different variations, but who would have thought such a set so far out of the collector's main stream would have three different variations?

     In 1991, Score issued a set of 10 supposedly up-and-coming prospects that were expected to make some sort of impact over the next few years, and they were given away at the 1991 All-Star Fanfest over the MLB All-Star weekend in Toronto, in a little sealed plastic wrapper like Post used in the 90s for cards issued in cereal boxes. They also came with a random 1991 Score World Series trivia card like were issued in every pack of Score. To save a little effort, they also gave out pretty much the exact same set at the 1991 12th Annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, California. The only difference? That little line of text on the lower red stripe on the reverse of the cards. Incidentally, Score also produced a set of hockey cards, featuring some of the greats of the day, using almost the exact same design (the colors were slightly different).

     I'm guessing the last one was perhaps a proof or example printed up without the lower banner to show how the cards would look. I bet they were never intended to see circulation amongst the general public. While I've seen several of the Fanfest and National sets once I started to notice them, I've seen this particular variation blank variation listed once on CheckOutMyCards.com. Of course, that may simply be because no one ever posts scans of the backs of cards on eBay or Sportsbuy.

Here's the full checklist of the sets, in case anyone might be "super collecting" Ed Sprague:

Score Title Card (blank backed)
1. Ray Lankford
2. Steve Decker
3. Gary Scott
4. Hensley Meulens
5. Tim Naehring
6. Mark Whiten
7. Ed Sprague
8. Charles Nagy
9. Terry Shumpert
10. Chuck Knoblauch

     I almost have to think they were shooting for the 2nd or 3rd string of actual prospects....I mean, this is 1991, and no Todd Van Poppel? No Jeff Bagwell? I-Rod? Mo?

     Beckett doesn't acknowledge the existence of the National set, but SCD lists both sets together, mentioning the separate events. Neither mention the existence of the blank variation. I have no idea what the print run was, but I imagine loads of these sets didn't survive any farther than the trash cans by the exit doors at the events (especially after kids opened them and saw who was in it!). In 2006, SCD gave the set a whopping $2 book value. Beckett was a little kinder, but not by much. The Fanfest set is pretty easy to find on eBay, the National set slightly less so.