Today I got my latest package of baseball (and other) cards, and this new batch might just be the most Kurt Blumenau thing that ever Kurt Blumenau-ed. So, you get pictures and comments on some of them.
(Look on the bright side: At least there’s pictures!)
Ah, yes, the infamous 1993 Upper Deck Mike Perez. I’ve low-key wanted one of these for a while, and so I finally laid out my 10 cents for one.
If you look closely (you probably can’t see it in this pic), the card Perez is holding has writing across his face — must be a proof. I don’t think that detracts in the slightest from the brilliance of this one.
Similarly, I picked up a bunch of manager cards — one of several jags I indulged in this time around — and this one of former Seattle Mariners manager John McLaren has to be one of the coolest manager cards that’s ever been.
Managers are stereotypically shown shouting at their players, often through cupped hands. But this shot heralds a new, more equal era in manager-player relations. McLaren and Ichiro are truly partners in the success of the Mariners.
Ain’t understanding mellow?
I bought, or more likely received, several packs of 1984 Fleer back in 1984. Probably around this time of year, probably in an Easter basket. I always liked the look of the set, and when I found a couple of cheap ’84 Fleers on offer, I snapped them up.
We will further discuss the 1984 products of Fleer later on in this post.
“1st Bowman Card!” How perfectly exciting!
The more obscure a player is, the more I perk up over his cards. This young man is Jabari Blash, a Virgin Islander who, to date, has hit .186 in 123 major-league games over three seasons. In this card, though, he is young and upcoming.
(You know what? Maintaining this format is a pain in the arse.)
This card scratches a couple of itches. One, I’m just about always interested in minor-league cards. Two, I saw Joe Hudson make his major-league debut at Fenway Park, one of very few players I can say that about. He didn’t hang around in the majors long, and I may be the last person in New England who remembers him, but when I spotted his card I had to pick it up.
Another Red Sox favorite from my college years. Tony Fossas didn’t reach the bigs until age 30 but then hung around for 12 seasons, chiefly on the strength of a sloppy sidearm curveball he liked to call “the frisbee.” I picked up a couple Fossases in this buying round to go along with the three I already had, including the one I induced him by mail to autograph. Yup, I did that.
The trainer card is a grand tradition in minor league baseball, often inserted to pad out card sets. I’ve probably got three or four of them now. Tony, in his color-coded pants, looks ready to address any ailment.
On a small scale, I also dig Topps’ Heritage issues, in which they resurrect card designs from years past. This one reuses the 1958 design to, IMHO, good effect.
Mike and Mark Bavis, hockey-playing twins from the Boston neighborhood of Roslindale, attended Boston University at the same time I did and were regular contributors to BU’s hockey team. (I did not know them; the hockey players existed in a special bubble dictated by their unique circumstances, and while I had one or two classes with them, I did not know them.)
Both Bavises played minor-league hockey. Mark became a scout for the Los Angeles Kings; he and fellow scout Ace Bailey were killed on September 11, 2001, in the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 175. Mike, apparently, is on the BU coaching staff nowadays.
I feel less and less affiliated with Rochester with each passing month, but every so often something presses that button, and a card of Jody Gage is one such thing. (If you know the saga of Mr. Amerk, you know the saga of Mr. Amerk.)
I believe I mentioned collectors’ obsession with rookie cards — the first card issued of a particular player. This spilled over in the ’90s to a point where card makers, even the flagship Topps, were slapping unproven draft picks’ faces onto cardboard, just to be in the race to issue that all-important first card.
Some of these guys — the lucky ones — got shown on their cards in the uniform of their high school or college baseball program. They, at least, got depicted in a baseball setting. Others, like these guys, got photographed in street clothes, and in retrospect, they look all kinds of derpy.
Neither Mike Rossiter nor Rich Ireland made the big leagues; Ireland didn’t get past rookie-level ball. But, he has a Topps card. That’s a legit accomplishment. Me, I love cards of guys who only got a cup of coffee in the bigs or didn’t get there at all. So these dressed-up dudes are just my speed.
I bought this card sight unseen and I am proud to say it exceeds even my wildest expectations. This is former Boston College football coach Jack Bicknell, coaching in the old World League of American Football (WLAF, pronounced “we-laugh.”) Mein Gott, that sweater!
I think I mentioned that coach and manager cards were a jag. Entraineur doesn’t mean “trainer,” like Tony from Pawtucket. It means “coach.” (As if any Canadian kid who pulled this card would have mistaken Mr. Gregory for a player…)
“I was made for lovin’ you, baby / You were made for lovin’ me…” What in the hell are they pointing at?
The back of this card includes the anecdote: “Mrs. Adubato states: ‘He dreams about sports every night. One night I woke up and he was palming my head.'”
I wish I were making that up.
Another big card gimmick of the past quarter-century is shiny cards. Gold, silver, chrome, refractors, whatever. My limited understanding is that Topps (probably others too) now issues multiple shades of refractor cards in addition to a player’s standard “base” card, to the point where it’s damn near impossible to organically collect a full set of cards because of all the shiny variations.
Anyhow, the shiny thing has always felt a little … forced … to me when it’s applied to a player whose career doesn’t make you think of gold, silver or platinum. Like Joe Klink, here. A perfectly serviceable reliever for a couple of years, but no Tony Fossas by any stretch.
The Celtics were pretty dismal when I went to school in Boston (I never went to see them play.) For some reason, point guard Chris Corchiani — who played with three teams in three seasons — sticks out in my mind as the kind of player the Celts were picking up around that time, kinda like how Dooley Womack stands out as an exemplar of a certain period of New York Yankees players. So, for cheap, I picked up a college memory.
Same with this guy. Link Gaetz played two seasons in the NHL and purveyed my absolute least favorite style of hockey — he was a raging goon who compiled 400-plus penalty minutes in 65 NHL games. I mainly remember him from playing computer hockey against my sophomore year roommate, when we would order Domino’s and make an evening out of trying to pound the cyber-tar out of each other. Link Gaetz was good for that.
Another Heritage jobbie – I think 1963 or ’64 is the design being aped. This guy just looks like the quintessential hayseed who’s pitched his way off the tractor, which I love. (In real life I am sure Mr. Perry was the modern baseball player in every way — protein shakes and spin analysis and pitch counts and agents and whatever else.)
Topps, not having reached my jugular well enough with the Heritage series, has taken it up a notch by doing Heritage-type cards of minor-league players. Mr. Perry, here, topped out at Double-A ball; he is shown as a member of the South Bend (Indiana) Silver Hawks.
A number of Topps Heritage cards that ape the 1970 design have weird, unreal, off-puttingly artificial background colors. What weather does that sky portend?
As I was saying…
Eddie Haas got a single Topps card as a player, as a young outfielder in 1959. After years of playing, managing and coaching, he worked his way up to become Atlanta Braves manager, and was given a second Topps card in the 1985 Traded set (the set issued in mid-year to account for trades, rookies who have proven themselves, and managerial changes.) The Braves let him go as manager on August 25, and he never got another Topps card.
Vic Davalillo, in contrast, had bunches of cards through the 1960s and 1970s. The Venezuelan outfielder kept popping up with the Dodgers as a pinch-hit specialist in the latter half of the ’70s. He only appeared in seven games in 1980, but Fleer gave him a card in 1981 anyway, probably on the assumption that the guy was just never going to go away completely. (They were incorrect.)
Topps Heritage cards for Medal of Honor winners are a thing, apparently. I am not one of those people who worships all things military … but a trading card of the Hero of Little Round Top, the future Governor of Maine, and the president of Bowdoin College? Yeah, I’ll spend a dime on that.
The NFL is dead to me and western New York grows dimmer by the day but I still dig this card. Christie, the man who almost made Bills fans forget Scott Norwood, is pictured precisely at the Moment of Creation … he’s not looking at the ball, but his entire body is wrapped up in the effort of kicking.
Two more football cards, another college memory. Vincent Brisby was a wide receiver on the miserable Patriots teams of the Nineties. He lives in my memory chiefly as a result of his euphonious nickname: Vincent “Ultimate” Brisby.
OK, it’s about time to wrap up already, so I’ll get to the real piece de resistance. Remember how I mentioned 1984 Fleer cards about a half-hour ago?
Well, I was searching for 1984 Fleer products, and I discovered that in 1984, Fleer produced a 66-card set dedicated to the television miniseries V — apparently expecting that V would be a larger cultural event than it turned out to be.
I didn’t see the miniseries, and I had to go to Wikipedia to refresh myself on the plot — something about reptilian space-Nazis who pretend to come in peace.
But when I saw this card on the available list I said hells yes:
Diana was the female leader of the evil reptilians. Apparently torture was her thing, or part of her thing. And so Fleer produced a card of Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair.
I bought this one sight unseen too. I kinda wondered what might be on it — maybe Diana putting the nipple-pinching clothespins on some poor Earthling? A bit of watered-down sadism aimed at the 11-year-old market?
But, no. It’s a chair. An unoccupied chair! An unoccupied chair surrounded by ominous black rigmarole-props. This is the most fabulously absurd thing that’s ever been printed on a square of cardboard. It’s gotta be up there, anyway. You wanted Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair? Never let it be said that ’84 Fleer didn’t come through for you, Bunky.
Oh, and here’s Diana her ownself, as played by actress Jane Badler, bringing heavy Grace Slick energy to the role. (“Diana Looks For New Conquests” is almost as great a card title as “Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair.”)
And if you don’t mind cocking your head to read the card back, you can enjoy another great aspect of these cards: The copy seems to have been written by someone who might not have had the slightest bit of familiarity with the show, but who is guessing what to say based on the picture.
“You just wasted how much of my time with this stupid blog post?”