31 May 2010

Roberto...er, Bobby...uh, Roberto...um, just don't call him 'Joey'

A big mail day from CheckOutMyCards.com has given a nice 10-card boost to my collection of one of the Yankees most under-appreciated young players. Roberto Kelly, while easily the most accomplished and consistent of the crop of prospects to come up from the farm system since Don Mattingly, Kelly was promptly shuffled off to Cincinnati as soon as Bernie Williams was deemed ready for prime time. Sadly, despite making the All Star team both for the Yankees in 1992, and then for the Reds in 1993, injuries claimed pretty much the rest of Señor Kelly's career as he demonstrated what an unsuccessful version of Kenny Lofton's career would look like, playing for seven teams (nine of you count the minors) over the next seven years.

1993 Pacific Jugadores Calientes #29

I didn't even know what these looked like until they showed up on COMC. Fortunately, I was able to land the Kelly and Dave Winfield before anyone else noticed them. Shiny! Pacific would probably use this as the template for the Prisms sets later on.

1993 Stadium Club First Day Issue #632

1995 Stadium Club Super Team World Series #219

Topps, here, sets the stage for the endless onslaught of meaningless, artificially scarce variations that would follow from pretty much every other company over the next 15 years. Take a regular base card and stamp something on it and, VOILA!, you have a limited edition, short-printed variation!

1996 Flair Gold #115

This one bugs me because COMC listed it as "Gold", but it looked exactly like the regular Flair card I already had. At least I thought I had the regular version. I checked my Matt Williams collection to see if I had both versions there, and unfortunately didn't. My Williams also looks gold. Is it the whole card that's gold? What about the foil on the player's name? Winfield had just retired in 1995, so Fleer didn't bother issuing him a card in the 1996 Flair set.

1997 Pacific Latinos of the Major Leagues #12

1997 Pacific Prisms/Invincible #45

Interestingly, there is some disagreement between the Standard Catalog and the Beckett Almanac on this set. SCD calls it 1997 Pacific Invincible, which seems more likely since the 1998 & 1999 Pacific Invincible set also features the inlaid mugshot of the players in a little translucent window. ALL of the Prisms sets from other years feature backgrounds resembling the Jugadores Caliente set from 1993, so I tend to side with the Standard Catalog on this one and lean toward Beckett just labeling this set incorrectly for the last 13 years. I guess unless someone busts a pack in front of Beckett or SCD, this isn't likely to be corrected in either case.

1998 Pacific Red Threatt #189

Early, Wal-Mart only meaningless parallel. Aside from the red foil, there's nothing to indicate the set to which it belongs. SCD just calls it "Red", rather than Red Threatt, which seems to be a Beckett typo as their description for 1999 Pacific Crown Collection Red says "Randomly inserted into retail Treat packs at the rate of four in 37, this 300-card set is a red foil parallel version of the base set." So suspect that should have been "Red Treat" or something, but since "Red Threat" is a familiar Cold War term, I guess some sort of Freudian slip resulted in the odd (and misspelled, in either case) set name.

1999 Pacific Crown Collection Red #286

See above. The Standard Catalog calls the Red inserts an ANCO exclusive. What's ANCO?

1999 Topps Chrome Refractors #116

Looking at the refractors, I almost wish Topps would just abandon the regular Chrome cards altogether and only issue them as refractors. The refractors always look nicer and the definitely scan better.

2000 Topps Limited #88

My 2006 Standard Catalog doesn't even include this set, but Beckett refers to it as a special boxed set issued as a premium version of the 2000 Topps set, limited to 4,000 copies. I guess this was sort of the 2000 version of Tiffany, but since everything was already printed on glossy, white cardstock by default, they just resorted to stamping "Limited Edition" across the front of every card. Very creative there, guys. Oh, the curse of a player collector!

21 May 2010

Meulens...Muelens...Muellens? What, no Myoolins?

Thanks to Tim Peichel, master sleuth of the oddball card, I now have in my hands yet another, hitherto unknown, Broder-style card of everyone's favorite San Francisco Giants' hitting coach, one Bam Bam....Muellens? Geez, no wonder I never found this one. The only auction I'd ever seen with a spelling that mangled was for what someone was claiming was an authentic Pittsburgh Pirates jersey of Mr. Meulens. I did not bid.

In true junk era fashion, this card gives away absolutely nothing about its origins. One must suspect it to be issued in 1989, both due to the stated lack of major league experience, and the fact that Ken Griffey, Jr. also has a card in the set.

Perhaps this card was foretelling his destiny of playing in Japan, as Curaçao's own rising son.

08 May 2010

Mr. May No More!

1993 Blue Jays Donruss World Series Highlights #WS7

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp In the 1980-81 off season, George Steinbrenner signed up, to play left field for the New York Yankees, the biggest free agent on the market to the biggest deal in history. At the time, it was reported as $10M for 10 years (though it would become apparent later, that The Boss apparently didn't actually read the complex, clause-laden contract and would end up being more like $23M). Incidentally $10M is about the same price Steinbrenner bought the entire (last place) New York Yankees franchise for in 1973. A whopping ONE million dollars a year secured one of the best (and certainly biggest...I mean look at how he towers everyone else in the photo!) all-around players in baseball, one David Mark Winfield.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Naturally, for $1M+ a year, Steinbrenner expected immediate results. However, in the weird, strike-interrupted 1981 season, Winfield would not live up to those expectations. Big Dave got off to a pretty good start, but after nearly a two month mid-season hiatus, he never got his rhythm back when the season resumed. Winfield did bat .350 in the '81 division series, but then went a combined 3 for 35 in the ALCS & World Series, with no home runs. And unfortunately, that lack of performance, and the failure of the Yankees to return to the post-season over the next 4 years, resulted in Steinbrenner, after the team narrowly missed making the post-season in 1985, labeling Winfield as "Mr. May" since it seemed his best hitting came early in the season when it mattered the least, unlike "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson, who is best known for his World Series heroics.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp In the next 5 years, the Yankees still wouldn't make the post-season, and Winfield would be traded to the Angels, and then move on to the Blue Jays. It was with the Blue Jays, in 1992, that Winfield would shed that unfortunate moniker with a game-winning double in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Been looking for this card for a very long time and this past week someone posted each card from the set on eBay. Score!

02 May 2010

"License and registration, please."

"Sorry, officer, I must've left my MLB Properties license in my other pants."

In the late 1980s, you knew you were highly touted as an up-and-coming prospect when there were a handful of these babies on the dealer's tables at card shows. These Rookies sets began in 1987 and continued on until at least 1990. Branded "Broders"; a catch-all term for unlicensed cards that got the name after photographer Rob Broder issued a couple of sets of full color cards that were intended as advertising for his 8" x 10" photos, but which ended up taking on a life of their own.

There was a set issued in 1987 with Broder's name on the back, but then there was this set with the cartoon on the reverse, which is what continued year after year. In some cases, players were included in the sets for several years. They typically sold for anywhere from 25¢-50¢ per card, and though the hobby magazines were always adamant that they held no collector value, dealers had no trouble selling them (in some cases, in the aforementioned magazines). Due to their unlicensed nature, these days, these sets can be extremely difficult to track down as they were issued in a wide variety of names, rarely featured any indication of who printed them and are no longer listed in any of the current price guide and catalog publications (though SCD's Standard Catalog listed many such sets as recently as their 2003 edition).

This was the first such unlicensed card issued of Hensley Meulens.

In 1989, Meulens would make it into the first series of the set. Another feature that makes these sets tough to pin down is how they differ in dimensions. Some had square corners, some with smaller rounded corners and some with an extremely rounded corners (like the 1987 Indiana Blue Sox set).

1989 saw more producers get into the unlicensed arena, but almost all of these other sets, like these from the 1989 All-American Promo Cards Series, were probably just re-printed from widely available glossy 8" x "10 photos.

Pacific Cards & Comics, a card shop in Los Angeles, CA, was one of few producers of these sets that actually included their name on the cards (The Press Box being the notable other such shop).

These are the only unlicensed cards of Hensley Meulens that I know of, that first of the Pacific cards being the last I've tracked down. If anyone knows of any not shown here, I'd be very interested in knowing about them.

Returning to the present day, here's great piece by Lowell Cohn on Hensley Meulens, his approach as the Giant's hitting coach and the results so far:

Cohn: Bam Bam's placid approach has Giants hitting better